SPECIAL REPORT: Lufkin man, woman share story of surviving the recession

By Holley Nees - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – In a recession where economic survival stories are rare, Melba Poskey overcame a layoff, found success, and in the process discovered what it takes to turn lemons into lemonade.

"It was horrible," Poskey remembered. "I went to work that morning…even went home for lunch and came back after lunch and I just got called in for a meeting and that's when I found out."

The memories come back to Poskey.

After 30 years working in technical support at Abitibi Consolidated, Poskey was out of a job.

"I just thought probably we'd work at the paper mill until we retired, not really thinking that anything was going to happen out there like what happened," said Poskey.

Two years later, the plant would close and she and her husband would both be looking for work.

"What we were making and what you were used to and you had adjusted to lifestyles and then all of the sudden that's all gone," said Poskey.

For a year, Poskey tried to decide what to do. At 53, she went back to school and made a career change.

She said she never thought she would be a real estate agent.

"Never even thought about it, never considered it up until the time that I was laid off," she laughed.

Licensed Professional Counselor, Debra Burton, said change may be hard, but it's not always bad.

"When we lose our job, we don't have a choice," explained Burton. "So, it's an opportunity to really find what your passion is and maybe change careers altogether."

Career changes -- that was Poskey and her husband.

Now a seven-year veteran realtor for Gann Medford in Lufkin, she sells homes and her husband builds them.

"When you get to kind of thinking about it, there's other people that have gone through the same thing," Poskey said. "You just have to think, well maybe it happened for a reason."

Across town, Harrell Napier found himself in Poskey's position more recently.

"I was working for Langston Construction and you know business got slow and they laid us off," said Napier.

The former carpenter started searching for work.

"You get up and you make your phone calls and somebody will tell you they're hiring, they're hiring and you drive over there to it, but you know you have to check out every lead you get," Napier said.

For a year he was on the job hunt, drawing unemployment, and was eventually forced to move in with a friend in Zavalla.

"Anything you do have saved, it just goes away…my kids don't understand that, they just know they need stuff," Napier said.

His 17-year-old twins were among the first to know about his new job at Lufkin Industries.

"They were happy for me, you know," said Napier. "It was a good feeling. "

He's been on the job just a few days, but Napier is proof persistence pays off.

"I get calls all the time saying why can't they hire me, but it's really a process that there are probably still more people than there are jobs," said Lufkin Industries Oilfield Production Manager Don Baker.

"You can't quit, you just have to keep looking and trying," said Napier.

It'll take Napier at least six weeks to learn how to operate the Horizontal Boring Mill on his own, but the skills he will learn, he can use for the rest of his life.

"It's really good to bring people in that didn't have a trade when they get here and then after they get here they have a trade," said Baker.

At 47 years old he went from carpenter to an "A" class machine operator.

"It's a lot of relief," Napier said.

From 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., he'll work the graveyard shift, but he's just thankful for a job that pays the bills with full benefits and a chance to move up.

"I mean the money is good and it's a job," said Napier. "I'm glad to have it."

A victim and survivor of a recession he never thought would touch him.

"If you quit one job, you'd be working another one that day, you know," said Napier. "It's not that way anymore."

Both Napier and Poskey have learned changing careers is not easy.

"I think when we see stories that have a good ending, it provides us with hope and hope is very important and you know it's just taking things one step at a time," said Burton.

Napier and Poskey are two success stories out of a sea of unemployment in this economic downturn.

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