NORTH ADAMS —
The job, interviewing people seeking fuel assistance, is a world away from away from the McDonald’s where Shoestock, a single mother of three, has worked for more than a decade. She wears a wool suit to the office, works 8 to 4 instead of night shifts, and, for the first time in her adult life, sees the chance to build a professional identity, and perhaps a career.
“I don’t go home smelling like french fries,” Shoestock said. “I feel fantastic, like I’m moving forward.”
Moving up is increasingly difficult in poor, postindustrial communities like North Adams, a former mill city in the northwest corner of Massachusetts where jobs and opportunities are few. Amid picturesque steeples, art galleries, and the misty backdrop of the Berkshire Mountains, unemployment remains near 8 percent, nearly a percentage point above the state average.
But Shoestock had a tireless advocate, Aleta Moncecchi, a wiry and energetic 49-year-old social worker who saw beyond Shoestock’s mistakes, missteps, and poverty, helping her land a temporary job at the Berkshire Community Action Council, where Moncecchi also works.
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