The Face of the Recession

By: Joe Gagnon Email
By: Joe Gagnon Email

The state unemployment office has good news to report, the rate in Mesa County took the biggest drop in more than a year, down to 8.5 percent, but one local man unexpectedly became part of that figure.

It's lunchtime for Dan Wilkenson. "Meatloaf.. refried beans.. and salad," says Wilkenson, pointing to each item on his plate.

Thursday he was enjoying his lunch at his usual eatery, and his meal is on the house. He says you can't beat that. "It's just a great place to get a free, hot meal." The restaurant's name is Catholic Outreach, a soup kitchen for people falling on tough times who just want a delicious lunch.

Sister Karen Bland says there are more and more people like Dan coming into her kitchen everyday, "We have a line wrapping around the building every day."

Wilkenson says it wasn't supposed to be like this, when just three years ago, he was running for state office to represent District 54 against current Representative Steve King.

He has most recently worked in the oil fields since then, and in February he was laid off.

Now, his benefits are running out causing him to sell his home to afford his medical bills. "I'm in danger of losing my house," Wilkenson says.

He certainly isn't losing hope, however, using all of the resources provided to him at the Mesa County Workforce Center to get back on his feet including attending a job recruitment course.

Gilbert Lujan from the Workforce Center says it is tough for guys like Wilkenson in the current economy, "There are jobs out there they are just getting filled up so fast."

The Workforce Center's database has more than 9,000 on the job hunt, but there are about 100 jobs orders available.

Which is not news the the former politician says, "There's no jobs in Mesa County and there are thousands of people who need work."
Including himself.

The odds may be stacked against Wilkenson, but he says he won't ever stop doing whatever it takes until he can have a warm meal every day, this time in his own home.

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