Hard Times Barely Over In Elkhart, Ind.

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For more than a year, Tell Me More has followed the story of Damond Smart of Elkhart, Ind. He and his family have struggled to rebound since the midwestern community was devastated by the economic downturn in 2008. Elkhart has one of the highest jobless rates in the nation, recently reported at 15 percent. Smart checks-in with host Michel Martin and offers an update on his situation, which contains good news.


And now to a more uplifting story about the economy. For over a year now, we've been in touch with a young man named Damond Smart from Elkhart, Indiana. For about a year, and up until recently, Damond was part of a terrible statistic that has kept Elkhart in the news: the highest unemployment rate in the country. The news is a little better now, 14.9 percent, that's as of November. It's still an example of the tough situation Americans are facing but the good news is that Damond is now employed. He is working as a sales rep at Sprint. He got that job three weeks ago. So, we wanted to check back in with him to see how he is doing. Welcome back, Damond, how are you?

Mr. DAMOND SMART: I'm good, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So, what do you think made the difference for you? How did you get this job?

Mr. SMART: Just staying consistent and trying to go out and - I mean, I want more. You know, I was getting assistance for a while and it was helpful. You know, I was thankful for everything. You know, I'm blessed to have some opportunities, and I just try hard. I just kept going out and looking for something to keep me and someone that was interested, you know, in what I do in my field. I'm a salesman. You know, I have always been in sales for a long time. So, I just want to go out and try something that, you know, I know I was good at it. Now, I just kept pushing, you know, I just didn't want to settle for less.

MARTIN: How did it feel when you got that call? I don't know how you found out that you had gotten the job. Did they call you or did you get a email or...

Mr. SMART: Actually, I got a call right back. I mean, they looked at my resume, and she seen the drive in me, and she called me right back. I started up in no time. It was like a week's time and I was up and running and training.

MARTIN: What did that feel like to get that call?

Mr. SMART: Actually, it was great. I was just - I mean, I had been looking for a job for two years, you know, two whole years here in Elkhart. You know, since I been here in Elkhart I been looking for jobs. And it was just - it was exciting to have a job and I was - I was just blessed to know that someone was going to give me a chance, an opportunity to make something happen for myself.

MARTIN: And what's it like being back at work? You've been back at work about three weeks now. I mean, you've been working off and on all the time.

Mr. SMART: Yeah, yeah...

MARTIN: As we understand it, you've been doing stuff, taking stuff...

Mr. SMART: I do stuff...

MARTIN: ...trying to make things happen...

Mr. SMART: ...designs, my t-shirts and stuff...

MARTIN: All right, right. But what it's been like to, you know, have a job, a steady job to go to everyday?

Mr. SMART: It's actually been great. I mean, everything has been pretty fine, you know, for the most part. You know, we've been having a couple of difficulties at the job lately, you know, we suffered three robberies, well, two robberies and one attempt last night on me, last night, just recently last night on me.

MARTIN: I was going to ask you about that. You mean people are - do you think that they're targeting people at your job?

Mr. SMART: That's...

MARTIN: ...trying to stick people up.

Mr. SMART: I think it is some type of inside thing, because some reason it's -people don't know about the security. It's a security thing. And it's like they testing. It's like every time I look around there is something happening at the store. I wasn't there the first two times. But the third time last night, I was at gunpoint last night, you know, and I had to call the police. I had to make a report last night. And that is just before I closed.

You know, I was getting all this good news, then all of a sudden all this happened. He chased me out in the parking lot, and I lost my wallet. I lost my ID, I had to call the police across the street from another gas station.

MARTIN: Oh, wow, I'm sorry - I'm sorry to hear that. Actually, you sound a little shook-up.

Mr. SMART: Yeah, I'm kind of still shook-up from the situation, because I really didn't get no sleep last night. And, you know - that was my first check. You know, it was first check, it was - I lost everything last night. So, you know, I wanted to talk to my district manager this morning, you know, and the people that work with me, you know, to see what is going on about - see if we can get some more security, because it's not safe. This is the third time in a month, since I've been working there.

MARTIN: And I don't want to put words in your mouth, but do you think that it's in part because of the situation there?

Mr. SMART: Yes�

MARTIN: �that people are�

Mr. SMART: Yes, it is exactly what's going on. The people, you know, people around here - it's terrible. Like, a lot of people will lose the stuff. A lot of people will lose the family members. It's really stressful around Elkhart right now, and you know, that seems like it's the last situation. They're doing it by all means. I remember last I talked to you about it, people were doing anything to get money nowadays. I mean, they're doing by all means necessary, you know. And it's really scary right now.

MARTIN: Well, we're happy for you. We're sorry about what happened with that, that has to be very frightening. It sounds like you're dealing with it. I'm sorry that happened to you. But we are really happy to hear that you found work, and congratulations to you and your family, and continued success. We hope things continue to work well for you.

Mr. SMART: Yes, thank you.

MARTIN: Damond Smart lives in Elkhart, Indiana, and he recently got a job as a sales representative for Sprint. Damond, thank you.

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