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Job seekers crowd Community Fair

March 27, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown resident Steve Minchey said the economy was so bad, he would take any job that was offered to him Friday during the Community Fair at Kaplan College.

Minchey, 29, said he is struggling to support his fiancée and baby daughter.

"I'm just looking for any kind of work," he said. "If somebody's hiring, I'll take it ... Hard work and diligence makes a better man."

Minchey was one of 516 people who attended the Community Fair, which was sponsored by The Herald-Mail, Kaplan College and The One-Stop Job Center.

Among other things, the event offered employment opportunities with local businesses and government agencies and provided help to people who needed everything from housing to health care.

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"It's not only a job fair, it's a nice community resource," event manager Heather Guessford said. "It's all free services, that's what's so nice about it."

Guessford said the event has been held three times a year for the last six years.

The next Community Fair is scheduled for next month.

She said about 50 people showed up before the doors opened at 10 a.m. and had to wait in the Kaplan library.

Traffic was so thick, motorists had to be diverted to parking places at the back of the campus.

Lt. Vickie Wiles was at the Community Fair to recruit correctional officers for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

"It's going great," Wiles said. "We have a lot of people interested ... We are actively hiring."

Wiles said she wasn't sure how many positions the prison system needs to fill, but several officers will be hired to work at a new prison facility in Cumberland, Md.

The annual starting salary is $35,700.

Wiles said she talked to a few potential prospects on Friday. Many more were turned away, however, because they didn't meet simple prerequisites, such as having a high school diploma.

Some of the other employers who attended the Community Fair were Hardee's, Antietam Health, Citi, the U.S. Army and the Hagerstown Police Department.

Hagerstown Police Officer Heather Albowicz said the department plans to hire about five people to fill vacancies that will be created when officers retire.

"We did some interviews (Thursday)," Albowicz said.

Police officer candidates must be a U.S. citizen and at least 21 years old to be considered, according to city documents. The pay scale is $37,793 for the first year and tops out at $60,195.

Rick Herrera, 36, of Hagerstown, said he attended the Community Fair to get any help that was available.

Although he hasn't found a job after attending several community fairs, Herrera said the events are useful because he has received a few nibbles.

"The economy's kind of hard, so I'm looking for a job to support my two kids and my wife," he said.

Herrera said he was looking for a cooking or warehouse job.

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