Aspen When 64-year-old Aspen resident Gette Vhrin lost her job a year ago, she spent the ensuing months feeling hurt. Before being let go, she had been giving "1,000 percent" to the company, she said.
"It shocked me," Vhrin said. "I gave it all to them."
She's been searching for a job in the hospitality industry, though she hasn't found one yet. But three months ago, instead of just worrying about her plight, or "driving her husband and family crazy," as she put it, Vhrin decided to start Unemployment Anonymous.
To her knowledge, the group is the only one of its kind in the nation. She figured if there are anonymous meetings for alcoholics and overeaters, why not the unemployed?
She reserved meeting space at St. Mary Catholic Church on Main Street in Aspen. And with a few calls, she secured donated ads in the local papers, on public radio and on GrassRoots TV. She posted notices all across town, telling people about the noon meetings on the second Wednesday of each month. She scoured the Internet for information to share about job seeking.
But so far, despite the layoff talk around Aspen, no one has shown up for the meetings. That's except for Vhrin, who showed up faithfully anyway for the third UA meeting on Wednesday, in a cheerful pink scarf and polka-dot hat. She carried information about job searching and resume writing, and a donation to the church.
But by 12:30 p.m., the room remained empty, save for her and a reporter. Vhrin said she was disappointed, adding that she just needs to keep coming until members arrive.
"I will give them so much encouragement," she said. "They just need to show up."
If she can get the word out, Vhrin said she thinks an anonymous group will help unemployed Aspen residents work through their feelings. Not having a job can be an unexpected emotional blow, and the rejection job seekers often face adds insult to injury, according to Vhrin. Hearing others' stories can help, she said.
And while she is married, and her husband can cover their bills while she is out of work, Vhrin said that without that support, her life could be even more difficult right now.
"Imagine if I wasn't married - how much worse this would be?" she said.
The group also is a place where job seekers can share job leads and ideas.
Eventually, Vhrin would like to invite employment experts - or employers - to speak.
But first, she needs to attract the unemployed to her meetings.
"The most important thing is to realize they're not alone on this journey to get a job," she said.