In her new book about the challenges facing the American middle class, Arianna profiles people struggling to recover from the recession. In this excerpt, she writes about Seth Reams, a concierge in Portland, OR, who was laid off in 2008. Tired of wallowing in his extended bout of unemployment, Reams decided to organize ways to help others in his community through his website, We've Got Time To Help. Check out the slideshow at the bottom of this story for photos of his latest projects.
Seth Reams, who lost his job as a concierge in December 2008, took an energetic approach to his job hunt, circulating his résumé to more than three hundred potential employers. But when he got no bites, Reams told KOMO Newsradio in Seattle, he felt useless, "like I wasn't a member of society anymore, like I wasn't contributing to [my] household anymore." Frustrated, he and his girlfriend, Michelle King, who worked as an assistant administrator analyst at a health insurance company, brainstormed ways for him to stay productive during his job search. Together, they came up with We've Got Time to Help, an online platform for locals who have extra time -- generally people who were laid off -- and want to contribute to the community in Portland, Oregon, where Reams and King live.
For the blog's first project, Reams helped a single pregnant woman, who also cared for her three siblings, move furniture into her home. More projects soon followed: painting a room in a battered women's shelter, teaching refugees how to drive, helping a needy family repair the roof on their home. Within 16 months of the site's launch in January 2009, We've Got Time to Help assembled more than a hundred volunteers, who've assisted hundreds of struggling locals.
"People call us with tales of hunger, home loss, job loss, personal loss, and myriad difficulties," Reams and King wrote on their blog in May 2010. "But, most still have hope. Hope that things will change. Hope that times will get better. Hope that their situation will get better. Hope that someone still cares. And if someone calls us that seems to have lost their hope, we do our best to give them a little. We tell them that we will do everything in our power to help them. We will not walk away from them. We will stand by them in their darkest hour."
Click on the slideshow below to view the group's latest work:
Volunteers take down trees, plant blackberry bushes and till a garden for their neighbors.
On another project, the group digs up a garden.
After a wind storm ripped through a fence, WGTTH volunteers helped build it back up.
Volunteers load a truck full of furniture to help someone move.
A volunteer group pauses for a Kodak moment.
The results of a 'We've Got Time To Help' makeover.
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