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No. 5 Everyone suffers through recession

No one, it seemed, was immune to the recession that hit the country and Fort Mill residents in 2009.

The victims of the recession were varied and included residents young and old, and businesses small and large.

In February, the Fort Mill Times brought readers the story of Rebecca Gray, 24, who had been unemployed for 16 months. Her employment benefits were about to run out and she was facing a bleak future with her 3-year-old. Gray moved in with her mother for support and was excited when she landed a job as a server in a restaurant in March.

Gray wasn't alone in her suffering this year. Over several weeks, we presented a series, “Hard Labor: The Faces of Unemployment” that told the stories of a cross section of township residents hit hard by the downturn in the economy. Included in our coverage was the Hildreth Family, tradesmen who depended on the construction jobs that had been fueled by the township's sustained growth for their livelihood before the recession hit.

The Rock Hill Work Force Center was swamped with jobless claims, as was the Fort Mill Care Center, which was helping a growing list of people who were left with nowhere else to turn.

At the Care Center, residents in need lined up on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays hoping to get help with their bills and maybe some food to fill their pantries. But even the Care Center suffered this year, as it was hit with more requests for help than ever before.

In October, the Care Center was running out of essentials such as pork and beans, corn and canned vegetables. Families were coming in at an average of 30 per day, said Jan Arnold, who runs the Care Center's food pantry; it was nearly double what she has seen in her more than 10 years of volunteering.

By the end of 2009, the Care Center was giving out nearly 2,000 pounds of food a day and nearly $20,000 in help per month for utilities and prescriptions.

Businesses suffered from the recession as well, and 2009 saw the close of several local retailers, including Wags of Baxter. Baxter retailer Polka Dots moved to another, smaller, location on Market Street to save on costs, hoping to protect itself from a similar fate.

Retail development in Indian Land also slowed, as plans for a movie theater, department stores and big box retailers along Hwy. 521 were put on pause. Area developers said that those plans will return when the economy rebounds.