Shirley Cordero adored her job as a "variant configurator" -- in plain English, she would track upgrades that buyers wanted for their new houses.
Her employer, Morrison Homes in Salida, held 11 grand openings in 2006 and "business was excellent." The downturn hit later that year and after about three slow months, she walked in and was handed her final paycheck.
"No one was buying. No new communities were being put together. Then I lost my job," said Cordero, a Ceres resident. "I was shocked."
The sudden loss of employment has been financially devastating to Cordero, who was the sole income-earner in her family. Her husband is disabled and she is raising two grandchildren.
Cordero, 57, recently had to sell her boat to pay her monthly mortgage payment and she's had to cut spending on food, electricity and certain extras, such as tae kwon do lessons for her grandson. "It was quite hard, the things I had to take away," she said.
Cordero is taking computer retraining courses at Community Business College in Modesto that she hopes will help her transition into a new field. "I was going along and everything was so great, and then I feel like I just walked into a brick wall," she said.
-- Christina Salerno