Hope. Fear. Frustration.
Those were the emotions people searching for work described when they met at the Harrison Main Library on a recent Friday to get job leads, share career advice, and find comfort.
“Right now, you’re just in the state of shock,” organizer Sherry Toplyn told a Harrison man who had just lost his job as an auto technician after 25 years. “You have to grieve for losing your job just as you grieve losing a loved one.”
Harrison Job S.E.A.R.C.H. — which stands for Support, Education, Assessment, Reinvention, Cooperation and Handholding — is a new, free job-hunting program organized by Toplyn, a former Wall Streeter from Harrison. Mayor Joan Walsh came up with the idea. Every other Friday, a group of about 20 people gathers to share their stories and offer and receive help.
“Every day I wake up and it’s, ‘Damn, I don’t have a job,’ ” said Jim Salerno, 49, of Greenwich, Conn., who recently lost his heating-repair job.
Martha Vatigi, 39, of Harrison lost her administrative assistant job 18 months ago and is now trying to find work as a medical biller.
“I am willing to start from the bottom up,” she said.
But she has been frustrated that she never gets a response from online applications.
The group suggested she pitch herself in person at doctor’s offices and hospitals.
“You’re beautiful. You look professional. You look interview-ready,” Toplyn told her.
Bernadette Acompora, 45, of Rye Neck has considered expanding her husband’s wholesale produce business by selling to individuals. But she has been afraid to try it.
“This group has helped me so much to get out of the rut,” she told the others. “I feel so alone with the job search.”
Toplyn said afterward that the program gives the unemployed social interaction and confidence.
“Job hunting in this day and age with the Internet is the most isolating, lonely experience imaginable,” she said. “What this does is you know you have people who care about you. You have a job-hunting family.”