This is the fifth in a series of articles about how local people are coping with tougher economic times.
Part IV: Art of diversification
Part III: Moriah couple braces for worst
Part II: From comfort to crisis
Part I: Economic hardship answered with simplicity
Tomorrow: College costs hard to handle.
ELIZABETHTOWN — Richard Plank wasn't prepared to get laid off from Adirondack Chevy in Elizabethtown.
"I didn't think I would be first. The worst part is, it happened in the cold weather, when there's not much work to be found."
He was one of four employees let go at the two Adirondack Auto facilities.
Richard had worked as a re-conditioner to get vehicles — both new and previously owned — ready for sale. He also installed accessories, such as truck bed liners. At times, Richard would drive to dealers in New York City and other places to swap cars.
"I don't hold it against anybody," Richard said about his former employer. "This is something that could happen to anybody. I have no bitterness against Adirondack Auto.
"What shocks me the most is how fast it (the downturn in sales) hit up in this area. I thought it would be more in the City."
He does feel the American car companies are somewhat to blame for sales decreases, especially when they promoted vehicles like the Hummer.
"They should have made changes to more fuel-efficient cars seven years ago."
His loss of a job will mean lots of small changes for Richard; his wife, Donna; and their children.
"With our budget, we have to tighten up a lot," Richard said.
The Planks have sealed their house against drafts and are keeping the temperature lower to cut down on fuel consumption.
"I'll tell the kids to put on a coat or sweater," Richard said. "The money just isn't there. It will be tight this winter."
The family has also been making a concerted effort to use coupons.
They've told their son Steven, a senior at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, to save his new athletic shoes for inside use, while he is playing basketball.
"We, as a family, now make one run into town as a group," Richard said. "I take my daughter in at 1:30 to work and then wait for Steven, who gets out of school at 2:15."
Richard hopes he can keep his Blazer, which has more than 220,000 miles on it, on the road.
Donna is employed at Horace Nye Nursing Home in Elizabethtown as an activities aide.
"Thank God, she's working," Richard said with relief.
Their son Ritchie, who graduated from high school this year and lives at home, has had a difficult time finding employment due to the economy.
Not one to be content sitting still, Richard has been volunteering at ELCS for basketball games as a scorekeeper and shot-clock regulator.
"I love being around the kids," he said.
He has coached boys modified baseball and hopes to do it again. He may also get certified as a basketball referee.
Looking toward the future, Richard has a yard-work service that he hopes to build up, but there is virtually no business until the spring.
Initially, Richard had trepidation about applying for unemployment for the first time in 22 years. It went better than he thought, though.
"The employment office, they were great," he said.
But he has concerns about future employment.
"How many want to hire a person who is almost 50? For many employers, new is better than old."
He doesn't want to apply for food stamps.
"If things get worse, I may have to suck up my pride and get them."