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SEARS’ NEWS SHOCKS ITS 1,400 PROVO EMPLOYEES

SHARE SEARS’ NEWS SHOCKS ITS 1,400 PROVO EMPLOYEES

Cindy Brown works the night shift at the Sears Telecatalog Center in Provo to supplement the income of her husband. Her pay is her family's security blanket, because her husband, a diabetic, is on kidney dialysis and his third impending kidney transplant could force him out of work.

"You never know what the morning will bring," Brown said.But for Brown and at least 1,400 others who work at Sears Telecatalog, Monday morning brought shock, disappointment and fear when the center announced Sears, Roebuck and Co. would discontinue its telecatalog centers.

"It is scary because I needed the security. I never know when my husband won't be able to work. This was the perfect job because I could work at night and tend my five kids during the day," Brown said.

Employees agree: The center provides an ideal job for students, mothers and retirees because it is flexible and fills a desperately needed part-time job niche in Utah County.

"There are so many students and young people, the competition is tough for part-time jobs," said Gary Golightly, director of economic development for Provo City. And the part-time job market just got tougher.

Ruby Larsen and Janell Bendall are two of hundreds of senior citizens who work at the plant and fear they won't be able to find employers that would hire them.

"With the economy like it is, my husband and I have to help our children financially. I really need a job right now. This has torn me in two pieces," Bendall said.

"One of my co-workers told me, `I'm 71 years old - who else is going to hire me?' " she said.

Larsen and Bendall have worked with Sears Telecatalog since its conception four years ago. They were two of the first trainers hired at the plant.

"It is like losing one of your kids. We have made strong friendships here. It will be a heart-wrenching moment when they finally lock the door," Larsen said.

While nobody knows exactly when that will be, employees at the plant were told Wednesday that the Provo center will be the last to go. Within a month they will be told exactly the closure will happen.

"It will be easier to absorb these jobs into the market because it will take place over a long period," Golightly said.

Carolyn Myrick is one of only 11 full-time workers at the center. She is a single mother of five children.

"With the cost of living and rent, this is really frightening. The job market is not the greatest, either. Hopefully something will come up for me," Myrick said.

Myrick and others are hoping that the placement committee the center developed will help them find new jobs.

To date, at least six employers have called the center saying they are interested in hiring Sears employees, Myrick said.

In the meantime, employees at the center will remain busy with a huge influx of customers calling in to get the last merchandise sold through the almost century-old catalog.

"Call volumes are unreal. People are calling in to get the merchandise they're afraid will run out," Myrick said.