May 26, 2018
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Anonymous angel’s crisp $50 bills brighten tough holiday for job-seekers

Ryan McLaughlin | BDN
Ryan McLaughlin | BDN
Erin Smith of Carmel shows a Christmas card containing $50 cash that she received at the Maine Career Center in Bangor on Thursday afternoon.
By Ryan McLaughlin, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — Erin Smith admitted she had a “rough night” Wednesday after being laid off right before Christmas. But on Thursday, an anonymous angel helped the sun come up again, not only for her but also for six others looking for jobs.

Smith was at the Maine Department of Labor’s career center on Oak Street when a woman came to her cubicle and dropped a Christmas card in her lap.

“She went to the next aisle over and gave it to a few more people and continued throughout the cubicles,” said Smith, who had been laid off Wednesday from her advertising job.

It turns out the cards contained plenty of Christmas cheer, as Smith and six other people applying for jobs each found a $50 bill inside the holiday greeting.

Dory Demmons, a career consultant at the Department of Labor for the last 30 years, said she has never witnessed such holiday generosity at the Bangor facility.

“We’ve had people come and drop off some candy canes, but never anything like this,” she said.

Just as quickly as the cards were distributed, the woman, whose name Demmons didn’t get, was out the door.

“I was waiting on a customer, so I didn’t say anything to her,” said Demmons. “She went to every occupied seat and dropped a Christmas card on each individual.”

People come to the Maine Department of Labor to use the facility’s computers to search and apply for jobs and to work on resumes and cover letters, Demmons said.

Smith, a native of East Bay, Calif., who has lived in Carmel for 23 years, overheard a person in a nearby cubicle react excitedly, and that’s when she opened her card.

“I turned around, and they were opening the cards, so I opened my card and looked inside,” Smith said.

Smith couldn’t help but smile when she discovered the clean, crisp $50 bill.

“Something nice is going to be used for this,” Smith said when asked what she plans to do with her money. “It’s going to be put to good use.”

Cynthia Oakes of Holden has logistical plans for her $50.

“I’m probably going to use it to survive on,” said Oakes, noting she plans to use the money to put gas in her car and to buy groceries for Christmas dinner.

Oakes has been seeking full-time work since being laid off six months ago by a janitorial services company in Bangor. She has been working part time at Macy’s department store, but expects her hours to shrink after Christmas.

“Those go down to 12 hours a week after the holidays,” she said.

Like Smith, Oakes found herself caught off guard by the woman’s generosity.

“It really took me aback,” Oakes said. “It was just an uneventful day here, sitting here applying for jobs. I’ve been doing it for the last six months. You’re not expecting anybody to just hand you something.”

The generous card-giver went about her business quietly, Smith said.

“As soon as she dropped it in my lap, I said, ‘Thank you,’ and she said, ‘You’re welcome,’” said Smith, who had been working in advertising for 14 years. “She wasn’t looking for you to go make a big deal. She quietly trotted over to each and every one of us.”

But it turned out to be a significant deal for the recipients, one that will make the Christmas season that much happier.

“It makes you feel really good,” Smith said.

Correction: A previous version of this story said an anonymous donor gave $50 to Erin Smith and five others. The gifts went to Smith and six others.

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