- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Employers from across the region arrived at the D.C. Armory yesterday to offer job opportunities to Hurricane Katrina evacuees who face the difficult task of rebuilding their lives outside the flood-damaged Gulf Coast.

Trenise Smith, 29, found a job immediately and will begin working this morning.

“I was looking for something in the home-health business, since it was what I had done before in New Orleans,” said Mrs. Smith, who attended the fair with her husband, Mark, 32. “I was praying that someone from the business would come, and they actually did.”

About 40 businesses and agencies set up in the Armory’s parking lot, said Diana Johnson, a spokeswoman for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, which coordinated the fair.

Among the employers were Home Depot, M.C. Dean Inc., Safeway, Value City, Wendy’s, and the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority. Company representatives for more skill-intensive jobs such as construction and health care work also attended.

Most of the evacuees said they were not choosy on re-entering the job market.

“It doesn’t really matter what I get,” said Everett Duronslet, 30, a cook from New Orleans, as he and fiancee Latoyra Hayes sifted through information from numerous employers.

“Ideally, I’d like to get a job that involves what I’ve done,” Mr. Duronslet said. “But everything, to me, is like a steppingstone. I’m optimistic about today.”

John Ezulike, a retail-store owner whose business was flooded, said he also was ready to accept any job.

“I haven’t worked for anyone since 1990,” said Mr. Ezulike, 53. “It’ll be tough, but I can adjust to anything.”

About 30 evacuees attended a resume workshop Monday at the Armory to prepare for the fair, Miss Johnson said.

Redskins star LaVar Arrington sponsored a shopping trip yesterday to Wal-Mart so the evacuees could get clothing for interviews.

Kathy Cox, executive director at the Fort DuPont Ice Arena in Southeast, said the facility has a variety of immediate part-time and full-time jobs — both for the short and long term.

The positions range from security guards and concession workers to shift managers.

“As soon as we heard that folks would be at the Armory, we knew we had to get over here,” Miss Cox said.

“We’re literally right across the [Anacostia] river, one Metro stop away, so we knew that even for the short-term folks, they could get to us easily.”

About 120 of the 295 evacuees who arrived last week remained at the Armory, on East Capitol Street Southeast, said Cameron Ballantyne, a spokesman for the American Red Cross of the National Capital Area.

The number is expected to decrease further when about 20 evacuees are moved into semipermanent housing, authorities said.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who is in Germany this week, called the city’s efforts a “model for local government response.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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