- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 29, 2012


Eric Smith doesn’t ordinarily spend his Saturday mornings anxiously waiting in line to get inside a church.

Yet there he stood over the weekend among hundreds and hundreds of strangers, all of whom were profusely sweating from the midmorning sun and the prospect of a getting a job with one of the nation’s biggest big-box retailers at Costco’s job fair at Mount Horeb Baptist Church in Northeast.

Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Ward 5 D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie worked the line, which snaked around the corner onto Bladensburg Road and grew longer and shorter as applicants entered the church after descending from Metrobuses, cars and vans and arriving on foot.

The job fair was so successful that another is being planned for September — and I have the mayor on record promising to follow through.

Many of the job applicants Saturday were newly minted senior citizens, those old enough to get an AARP card at age 50, but scores of others were barely old enough to buy alcohol.

They all were hoping and praying, telling the mayor and other organizers of their unemployment dilemmas, the kind that do not show up in the monthly labor reports.

Mr. Smith was one such job seeker.

He knows word from Costco might not come this week or next, and he knows it’s because of what continues to place him between a rock and a very hard place.

“I’m an ex-offender, but it’s not who I am,” said Mr. Smith, who ordinarily would have been at a program with other offenders. “It’s what I served time for.”

What he did was shoot another human being in 1990, violating one of God’s commandments and man’s law.

Does he regret what happened? He said he does.

Is he trying to walk the straight and narrow? He said he is.

But Mr. Smith, a 41-year-old Washington native, is more than a returning citizen in search of steady employment in a city and nation where joblessness is as much of a measure of a man as local and national politics.

As a husband, father of disabled kids and grandfather, he said he keeps his eyes focused on what could be, like his son Angelo.

Story Continues →