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Service demand up

Feeling sting of pride and economy, many former white-collar workers have been seeking assistance from local nonprofit.

October 28, 2008|By Alan Blank

Jon Beccarelli, 32, felt embarrassed when he walked into Share our Selves’ medical clinic in Costa Mesa on Friday.

Beccarelli, who has a serious, long-standing thyroid condition, has relied on company health insurance to pay for his treatment for years; but he recently lost his sales job when his employer, Wickes Furniture, went out of business.

To get his prescription medication, Beccarelli sought a doctor at Share our Selves, a local nonprofit whose volunteers offer free social, medical and dental services. He sat in the waiting room among area homeless and longtime urban poor.

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“I felt strange, like I was on food stamps or something,” Beccarelli said.

But Patrick Chen, a physician and associate director of the clinic, said white-collar workers have become an increasingly common sight in his office since the financial crisis.

Chen said he often has personal conversations with his patients and that he has heard a surprising number of anecdotes from workers in the mortgage industry, the financial sector and all other parts of the economy that took a hit.

Just the other day a diabetic man walked into his office wearing a collared shirt and a tie, Chen said.

The man had been working as a loan compliance officer for Countrywide Financial before being laid off, and he was having a hard time wrapping his head around his new situation, Chen said.

“He kept saying, ‘I can’t believe I’m actually here,’ ” Chen recalled.

In the last three months, the number of walk-ins at the Share our Selves medical clinic has increased by 10.3%, which is significant and out of the ordinary, Chen said.

And unlike most industries where the demand drops as the economy flounders, the demand for charitable services increases drastically as money becomes tighter, which is squeezing Share our Selves from both sides.

Development Director Karen Harrington estimates that when the numbers are run, the charity will have taken in about 15 to 20% less money this fiscal quarter, which ends Friday, than it did during the same quarter last year.

“Our supporters live in the same economy as our clients, and everyone has to pay attention and watch where their dollar goes,” Harrington said. “So it’s going to be a tough year.”

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