In the midst of this economic downturn, business has been booming for Stephanie Lewis.
A case manager at the Howard County Employment and Training Center, Lewis has seen first-hand the casualties of an economy gone sour.
Laid-off employees have turned to the center, located in Columbia, in increasing numbers over the past several months to try to figure out how to make ends meet.
"We've had quite a few people who have been laid off, from construction workers to someone who is in management," Lewis said.
She is one of three case managers at the center who counsel people looking for employment.
"They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time; they had no control over it," she said. "But I've been getting some folks that feel this is an opportunity to make a bad situation into a good situation."
In her role as case manager, Lewis does everything she can to make that difficult transition as smooth as possible.
When clients come to the center for help, Lewis helps them develop a career plan and advises them about job-training programs and educational opportunities.
She works with clients through the entire job-finding process, which means doing a lot of hand-holding and giving moral support when problems arise.
Lewis helps clients make day-care and transportation arrangements so they can get to classes and jobs. And if arrangements fall through, clients can count on Lewis to do her best to come up with an alternative plan.
"I like seeing people moving forward -- just watching their excitement when they first decide what it is they want to do," she said.
Sometimes, however, no matter how hard Lewis tries to help a client, things don't work out.
"Sometimes, folks' problems go beyond what I can help them with, and there is some sadness to that," she said. "But I have to remind myself of the good things that are happening."
For Lewis, the most rewarding part of her work is what she calls the little things, like getting calls from a client who's doing well.
"That's what makes it for me," she said.