In 2011, Mark DeLoatch was let go from the mail room job he'd had with Lincoln Financial Group for 23 years.
That's two years earlier than he had planned to step away from the position, but it put the Collingswood man at a disadvantage.
At 55, DeLoatch had lived at Heights of Collingswood long enough to remember when the place was called Sutton Towers. He figured his 401k would be enough to support the cost of living in the same apartment while he found a new job.
But two years later, with his retirement money gone and no job prospects, DeLoatch was out of options. He'd had little success with the state employment and welfare agencies, to which he was reluctant to turn in the first place.
"I’d rather work than get welfare," DeLoatch said. "The whole social welfare thing is a rat maze that I can’t stand going through."
"I thought, 'No problem, I’ll continue looking for a job'."
The unemployment office first set DeLoatch up with "Experience Works," a state job training program that he said he "was caught up in bureaucracy," and then another called WorkForce 55+, intended for older New Jerseyans.
Although he fits the program description technically—"a few tricks with the razor" and he can take off a few years for a job interview—DeLoatch said he's only gotten "an occasional nibble" for the "hundreds of applications" he's submitted.
"I had a couple of close-but-no-cigar chances," DeLoatch said. "A lot of them say that my resume is impressive and then I don’t hear from them again.
"Right now, I’d take anything," he said. "My only requirement is I want full-time work."
So DeLoatch decided to put his fate in the hands of the people: he started a crowdfunding campaign dubbed the "Housing and Homeless Prevention Fund," seeking enough money to cover the cost of his rent for the next year.
"If I can get the rent paid, or even just get enough so I can get a couple of months of rent and expenses where I can get a job, I will have some money to help keep a roof over my head, put food on my table, even feed my cat," DeLoatch said.
DeLoatch isn't the first person to take advantage of crowdfunding to fund a personal cause, but his story underscores at once the desperation of a bleak job market as well as the digital innovations by which some people are trying to overcome its limitations.
"I’ve done everything this society has asked me to do, and now that I’m in my time of need, they turn their backs on me, and I’m angry and depressed," DeLoatch said.
"A lot of us are suffering in silence. I don’t want to suffer in silence."
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