Sharron Mack

All it takes is one sharp glance to bring the children in a cool, gray basement of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church to a standstill. At 5-feet-2-inches tall, Sharron Mack isn’t exactly a towering presence. But after raising five children on her own, she knows how to control a crowd–”without saying a word.

Since her temporary Census job ran out earlier this fall, the 45-year-old spends most afternoons helping with the after-school program at the church, which sits on a quiet residential corner in Chatham. Mack’s full-time job these days is looking for work.

Given that jobs have been disappearing around her South Shore neighborhood, it’s not surprising that Mack’s having a tough time finding work in her own back yard. But what has really discouraged her is how she has had equally bad luck in landing a position in the growing job market around the city’s center or in the Loop.

This fall, Mack applied for jobs at five grocery store chains, a dozen national chain stores–”from Staples to Old Navy to Target to Home Depot. With discouraging results, she hit up the local Burger King, McDonald’s and White Castle for work.

“I don’t know if it’s because of my age, but I have the experience,” Mack said.

Even 21 years of steady work on her resume at the U.S. Postal Service, where she worked as an extended temporary employee, hasn’t helped her job hunt. She has sent her resume to a handful of mailrooms throughout the Loop without success. In the meantime, she’s enrolled at Olive-Harvey College where she’s studying child development. Eventually, she hopes to open a daycare center.

In the meantime, she keeps waiting for a call back.

is a staff reporter at The Chicago Reporter.