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Wendy Reuer, Published April 25 2012

Job fair aims to give potential workers second chance

FARGO – Centennial Shipping account manager Nate Douglas thought 25 applications would be enough for the Second Chance Career Fair held here Wednesday.

Instead, Douglas probably handed out closer to 100 applications to job-seekers before the three-hour fair had ended.

Centennial Shipping was one of nearly 40 Fargo-Moorhead area employers at the fair giving interviews and taking applications from job seekers who have had a hard time finding work due to their backgrounds.

Potential employees that have a criminal record, a disability, a history of substance abuse or gaps in employment were all invited to the free career fair, as were veterans, said fair chairman Dave Hohn.

Douglas said knowing the fair was geared toward those with sketchy pasts didn’t give him pause.

“I believe in second chances, even third chances,” Douglas said. “These are people that deserve the right to get to work.”

But lining up potential work was not the only focus of the fair.

Job seekers could stop into the “closet,” where they could change into work appropriate clothing including suits, shoes, dresses, belts and purses.

“People come in and they leave with a whole different sense of pride,” said Kris Haycraft, organizer of the closet.

About 200 people picked up clothes at the closet Wednesday. Any of the clothes not used would be donated to local thrift stores with a career section, Hohn said.

Fair attendees could also get a free hair cut and drop children off at the child care center before speaking with employers. Resume experts helped fine-tune their resumes and print off multiple copies.

Local churches and rehabilitation services such as Alcoholics Anonymous also attended to offer information on their services.

Tina Hulst attended the fair with her son, Martin, who was looking for work. Hulst said she was impressed by the employers she and her son had spoken with.

“They don’t look down on you. Everyone here is so nice,” Hulst said.

Employers ranged from manufacturing and construction to retail, office work and food services.

Hohn said the event was held without any type of grant money. It was instead run by donations and sponsorships. It is the first held in the Fargo-Moorhead area, but Bismarck has seen great success with similar fairs.

He estimated around 400 job seekers attended.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530

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