Friday, August 13, 2010

When a Small Ohio Town Dies

I wasn't going to talk about.  It's too sad.  It hurts.  But not talking about it hasn't made it go away.

Wilmington, Ohio, is just a tiny spot on the map.  You would zip right past the exit on I-71 heading north to Columbus or south to Cincinnati. 

But when you take the time to look closer, you see a town of 13,000 people.  Part of the town is historic.

Part is agriculture.

But all of it is people.  All they wanted was a decent paying job and a safe place to raise their children.

And then this happened.  The biggest employer in the county and surrounding counties just pulled out.  DHL decided that their shipping hub in Wilmington was no longer profitable.  Approximately 8,000 jobs were lost.

It didn't stop there.  Many of the businesses that built up around the air park left too.  I have no idea how many jobs that eliminated.

The local hospital started to have problems.  Most of these unemployed people eventually lost their health insurance which left the hospital dealing with Medicaid payments or no payments at all.  This is the hospital where both of my children were born.  My mother had her hip replaced there.  My father died there.  It matters to me.

The hospital has been sold to an out-of-state group.  The employees are hoping that there will be very few changes.  We also thought DHL would never leave.  Time will tell.

Of course, houses are abandoned.  If you need to leave the area to find work and your house won't sell, you have to leave it all behind.  That goes against how these people were raised.  You pay your bills.  You fulfill your obligations.  And you don't leave your memories behind. 

Other things happen when a town dies.  Drug dealers know where to find the weak and the lost.  I have friends with children who are heroin addicts and prescription drug addicts.  The front page of the local paper covers the drug bust of the day.  Meth labs are in the house next door.  When there is no hope and no money, people resort to ugly ways to make a living.

A friend's husband was a mechanic at DHL.  They just built the house of their dreams.  He has been working out of state for the past year.  After 25 years of marriage, they are seeing each other on the occasional weekend, holiday and vacation.  They are the lucky ones.  They still have a home and they still have an income.

Perfect strangers are willing to tell you their story.  Yesterday, I was shopping at the local clothing store and started a conversation with a clerk.  She lost her job at one of the companies located near DHL.  She is currently working three part time minimum wage jobs.  Her husband works at the hospital.  She is worried.  Everyone here is worried.

If you want to know more, here is a youtube video that says it all.

This is happening all over the country, but this is where I raised my children.  This is where I worked for many years.  It matters.

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