Like many of us, Matt Kluk worked hard and thought he was secure in his job as a restaurant manager.
But the Pizza Hut franchise sold and the new owners wanted their own people; so last year, a month before Christmas, Kluk was laid off from his $40,000-a-year job.
He was in better shape than some, because his wife, Erin, is a manager for Medco, so his family, including three children still at home, didn’t lose insurance coverage.
Christmas 2009 wasn’t real cheery, but they scraped by.
Two years ago, they had lost their home in a foreclosure. They belt-tightened, moving into a five-bedroom rental home in Centennial Hills. After he lost his job, he rented two of those bedrooms to a friend and his son.
Ultimately, Kluk was out of work for nearly 11 months.
“When he’s down, I’m down,” said his 16-year-old daughter, Alexis, a straight-A student. “When he lost his job, he was down on himself. I don’t want to say he lost his way, but he was depressed.”
Jarrod, 12, and Devin, 7, agreed.
With unemployment compensation at $385 a week, Erin’s salary and the extra rental money, the family’s bills were covered even though credit card debt grew.
Kluk, 37, decided to go back to school and retrain in computer science. He had studied it at UNLV. He checked Nevada JobConnect to see what jobs were out there. Then he took a computer science class at The Learning Center, a for-profit computer school. But he didn’t have the money for the other classes he needed to become an IT specialist.
The Learning Center suggested he go to a nonprofit he had never heard of, Foundation for an Independent Tomorrow started in 1997 by Las Vegan Janet Blumen.
Even before the economy tanked, Blumen wanted to help the unemployed and underemployed find better jobs as part of a strategy to create a more diversified work force and move families off public assistance.
FIT paid $6,222 for Kluk to take classes at The Learning Center from May to September. Once he knew the skills, he had to get the job on his own. FIT is not an employment agency.
Kluk checked daily for jobs in Las Vegas and sent in eight or nine resumes without success.
But FIT also offered a Job Club on Fridays to help people with their resumes. He went and worked with case manager Pamela Wilson, changing what he thought was a good resume, making it more minimalist and removing colors.
Then he spotted a job advertised for an IT specialist at Nevada Title Co. He submitted his resume and cover sheet. The next day he had the interview and got the job with an established company that was adding a third IT specialist.
Kluk started work Oct. 18.
“I love it. I absolutely love it,” he said with a grin. “There’s not one morning where I wake up and say: ‘Oh, God, I have to go to work today.’ ”
Without FIT paying for his training and improving his resume, Kluk doubts that he would have the job of his dreams. “They knew without a doubt I am going to use that training to the best of my ability, that I am focused and I had a plan.”
This Christmas offers Kluk more hope than last, but money is actually tighter than last year because of the nearly 11 months he hadn’t worked.
But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Kluk family. As he and Alexis each said more than once, “At least we’re all together.”
Kluk has a job he loves, a great Christmas gift for anyone.
Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.