April is one of my favorite months. It’s when the wildflowers start lifting up their heads of orange and yellow and blue. We’ve got some forget-me-not blooming in cobalt blue splendor beside my hilltop writing cottage. It makes me smile every time I notice it.
Sweetheart Al says there are buttercups and shooting stars all throughout the lower meadow.
And I saw bunches of orange poppies bursting like concentrated sunshine from cliffsides as I drove around today.
While the colors transform our landscape, they cannot brighten the economic disaster taking place throughout our county.
More than 16 percent of the people living here have no jobs. They want jobs. They used to have jobs – in construction, real estate, the schools, government offices, restaurants, banks and other establishments. But they have no jobs now.
And as you well know, people without jobs have no money to spend, so other people with restaurants or bookstores or dry cleaners and who need customers to buy their products or their services begin to feel the pinch. And, eventually, these businesses who don’t have as many customers as they used to, start laying off workers, adding to the growing pool of unemployed.
In the last couple of years I’ve watched store after store, and restaurant after restaurant close.
Several little establishments downtown are just holding on my their fingernails, hoping and praying that things will improve and they’ll begin to see more customers or clients.
But yesterday I learned that two of the main thrift stores in our county are closing this month. These thrift stores have been in business since 1990. They raise funds for numerous programs aimed at the youth of the county.
They are run by volunteers, and employ half-a-dozen elderly workers who are paid a small wage through a government program.
In the past, these two stores raised about $30,000 a year for youth programs and projects, but with the Great Recession, they have not made a penny of profit for the past two years.
So their doors will close this month. And six more people in our county will join the unemployed ranks. Two more landlords will have empty properties on their hands. And the kids will no longer have the programs they used to have.
And the unemployed families, for whom the thrift stores had been a godsend, will no longer have an affordable place to buy clothes, shoes and other needed items.
I try not to complain too loudly or too much about what we’re going through in beautiful rural Calaveras County, but when even the thrift stores are going out of business, you’ve got to realize that wherever the recovery is taking place, it sure isn’t here.