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Published: Thursday, 5/14/2009

Optimist works to nix negativity

The first week, Chris Cremean sat all by himself. The second week, two people showed up and yesterday - week three - both returned.

With the local jobless rate hitting 12.6 percent in March, Mr. Cremean is pretty confident his new support group for the unemployed will expand soon enough.

Yesterday morning, at Resurrection Polish National Catholic Church in Temperance, he was joined by the same two middle-aged women from last week's session.

"First they came and said, 'Do you have answers?' Of course, everybody's looking for answers. And I said, 'No, we're going to talk about your questions.' Sometimes, that's all you need, to talk it out."

Should we just go ahead now and designate 2009 as the Year of the Laid-Off Workers Support Group?

Or does that sound too negative?

Mr. Cremean may be a college-educated, 57-year-old man enduring the second layoff of his lifetime, but one thing this Toledo man is not is negative.

"What I find exciting is that old saying about how when one door closes, another one opens. But if you don't take the lessons you learned, you're gonna get depressed. You're gonna withdraw, you're gonna retire."

Mr. Cremean dislikes the word.

"It should be [struck] from the language," he insisted.

If he's learned anything from his 34-year career working with older people - as a social worker, and a long-term and home-care administrator - it's how to age successfully.

"I've watched how people get to be 100, and they were involved and active their whole life.

"They may have had a job for 20 or 30 years, but they were always involved and engaged in something else. 'Retire,' the word itself, means to detach, to give up. It's all negative."

Like many unemployed folks, Mr. Cremean (jobless since October) feels he has nothing to lose by launching his own business.

The company's name - Caregiver Resources Group - is self-explanatory.

"I always read there's a need for support of the caregivers, so I'm going to go out on my own, take the bull by the horns and see if I can make this work."

See? Nothing negative about him. If anything, he's a man for our times.

Losing a job these days is "so widespread there's less of the stigma. It's almost like, 'Oh, I lost mine, too! Join the club!'•"

Sure, he said, there are already some support groups around Toledo for the newly jobless.

"But I'd encourage every church or organization to think about [starting one] - the more the merrier!"

Well, maybe not merrier.

Roberta de Boer is a columnist for The Blade.

At toledoblade.com on Tuesdays each week, she and sports columnist Dave Hackenberg offer point-counterpoint on issues large and small.



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