LaGrange County copes with high unemployment

In LaGrange County they’re doing things they’ve never done before to cope with high unemployment.

One year ago, the jobless rate in LaGrange County was five percent, with 835 people looking for work.

In April of 2009, the unemployment rate was 17.7 percent with three thousand people looking for work.

Last week, the Westview and Lakeland School Corporations started doing something they’ve never done before, and plenty of kids in LaGrange County were eating it up.

“We're doing the summer food program sponsored by the U.S.D.A. and the numbers last week, our first week of doing it, we fed over a thousand meals for the week which was very good,” said program coordinator Tammy Fennell.

The free lunch program has only come to LaGrange County now because the economy there is so bad.

In order for a school corporation to receive the federal grants that pay for the food, more than half the students must come from families the government considers low income.

“I think it’s sad our community has, qualifies for this program, but whatever we can do as a community to help one another is what we need to do,” said Fennell.

There are signs that keeping everyone fed and clothed has been challenging for LaGrange County. “Our food and clothes basket has gone up 70-percent this year in providing services to families,” said Angie Kresse with the United Fund of LaGrange County. “Things are really tough right now; we’re getting a lot of phone calls.”

Today, phone calls weren’t necessary. The community held a “Here to Help” fair where the jobless could share their financial fears face to face.

“My unemployment is running out here pretty soon, and now I have a part time job, but it’s not going to be enough,” said Robyn Lambright who was laid off about three months ago.

Frank Lewis also attended today’s fair at Lakeland Middle School in the hopes of filling out some job applications. “I worked for a company up until about two months ago, they laid off because the automotive industry wasn’t making enough money to pay them.”

The fair offered people help in dealing with common problems of the present, while some were already wondering what might come next.

“We’ve pretty much discovered that shelter is going to be the ultimate issue,” said Kresse. “Mortgage foreclosures are happening and there’s really not any shelter in LaGrange County for people to go to.”

Kresse and others were looking in to any grant possibilities that might be available.

In Indiana, LaGrange County’s unemployment rate is second only to that of Elkhart County. However, LaGrange is much smaller in terms of population.

About 38-thousand residents live in LaGrange County, where 40-percent of the population is said to be Amish.

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