Updated Sunday, January 13, 2013 at 08:47 PM
For years, Allan Clough did all the "right" things.
He worked hard, getting his first job at age 13 and working all the way through high school and community college, where he earned an associate degree.
He got married and worked in grocery stores for more than 20 years, rising from checker to manager in charge of various departments, including bakery and deli.
But in 2002, when the grocery store he was working in was bought out by a larger chain, he lost his job.
Things spiraled downward. Clough had a hard time finding a new job, got divorced, lost his home, had his car and rental house broken into, was hit by a car. He fell into depression.
By the time he found out about Hopelink in 2009, he had been living off and on in his car, in shelters and in rooms of various friends and acquaintances he'd met along the way.
"I was hanging on by a really thin string," recalls Clough. "I was trying really, really hard not to give up."
He turned to Hopelink originally for help paying the electricity and water bills for a room he was renting. But, eventually, it was the agency's job-training program that ended up giving Clough not just assistance but also something equally important: hope.
At Hopelink, people helped Clough put together his résumé, brush up his interview skills, and get appropriate clothes for job interviews.
"Having that kind of help just kept my spirits up," said Clough, who has since applied for jobs and been on job interviews.
Providing such hope — along with tangible assistance that helps people move from poverty to self-sufficiency — is what Hopelink, a Fund for the Needy recipient, is all about.
Last year, the agency helped 60,000 people in King County through an array of 35 different services, ranging from housing to food banks to adult education.
There is no "typical" client, says Glen Miller, communications manager at Hopelink.
"The people who come to Hopelink for help run a wide spectrum of ages, education, experiences and backgrounds," he says.
Clough's work "toward finding gainful employment is very indicative of our work toward lasting change rather than temporary fixes," Miller says.
Clough, 51, who grew up in the Mount Baker neighborhood, got his first grocery store job at 16.
He liked it immediately, especially interacting with customers.
But when he lost his job in 2002 and couldn't immediately find another, it added strain to a marriage that was already rocky. He and his wife divorced.
Unable to keep up with the mortgage payments, Clough sold their Beacon Hill house, using much of the proceeds to help his wife move to Reno.
He rented an apartment, but shortly thereafter, he lost many of his possessions when a burglar broke in.
Unable to keep up with the rent, he turned to living in his car. But then someone broke into his car, breaking all the windows.
"I ran out of money," Clough said. "I was embarrassed."
With no family or close friends nearby to help, "I didn't know what to do," Clough said. "I went into a blackout — a depression, big time."
His bad luck didn't end there. He was hit by a car in 2006, resulting in a broken nose and injured kneecaps. He stayed in an abandoned trailer park that got raided.
He kept looking for work, off and on. But people were mainly hiring through résumés or applications submitted online. "And I didn't have a computer" — not to mention a phone or permanent address, he said.
He did get a library card and used the computers at a local library when he could.
Finally, about three years ago, a friend of a friend in Shoreline took him in, providing a room in her house in exchange for low rent and maintenance work around the house.
She also let him use her computer.
That was when he decided he was going to really focus on looking for work.
He had heard about Hopelink a short while before that, turning to the agency now and then for help with paying for his utilities or getting food from the food bank.
"I don't take advantage of Hopelink that much, but they're here whenever I need them," he said. "They're a blessing."
Several months ago, Hopelink offered to help Clough with his job search as part of its new job-training program.
The two-year-old program started when Hopelink saw more people losing their jobs as the recession wore on. "We saw it was an area where we could help," said Miller, the Hopelink communications manager.
So far, the program has assisted more than 400 low-income people with everything from résumé writing to computer-skills training. The program also has sponsored two job fairs.
In Clough's case, he meets with his Hopelink job developer — essentially a job coach — about once or twice a week. They started off learning about Clough's past experiences, assessing his skills, seeing what barriers he was encountering.
With Clough, "there was so much going on in his head," said Temo Madrigal, the Hopelink job developer who's working with Clough. "He had major concerns because he's been out of the job market for such a long time. He had concerns about whether his previous skills were relevant.
"It was about building his confidence, giving him hope — that he's qualified to do the work," Madrigal said.
They condensed Clough's résumé from six pages to one. They realized he had a key goal of working with a local warehouse chain.
He submitted his résumé for an entry-level position and got an interview. Madrigal and others at Hopelink helped him prepare with practice interviews.
Although Clough didn't end up getting the job, "I think Allan is highly marketable," Madrigal says. "He's a very personable person."
Madrigal talks about the time he mentioned to Clough that there was a possibility he may not get the job he interviewed for and asked him how he felt about that.
"Allan said: 'I'm not going to let it be a deterrent,' " Madrigal recalls. " 'I'm going to keep looking. I've come this far.' It makes me very proud of him."
Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @janettu.
About the seriesEACH YEAR, The Seattle Times Fund For The Needy raises money for charities that help children, families and senior citizens. Articles in The Times tell how the 12 organizations make a difference in the lives of thousands, and the impact donors can make.
About HopelinkHopelink serves 60,000 people annually in King County, helping them move from poverty to self-sufficiency. Hopelink provides a range of services, including food banks, food delivery, housing, family development, adult education, transportation, energy assistance and emergency financial assistance.
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Examples of where your money might go
$20: Provides personal-hygiene products for two individuals to prepare for job interviews.
$50: Provides formula for two newborns for two weeks.
$100: Provides 50 meals for low-income families through the food bank.
How you can giveYou can give to the Fund For The Needy by sending the coupon on this page along with a check, money order or credit-card information. Or online at seattletimes.com/ffn
KEN LAMBERT / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Allan Clough, who has been assisted by Hopelink, at the Shoreline home where he rents a room.