Unemployed Oklahoman Gets Creative To Keep Working During Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic

Thursday, May 14th 2020, 9:41 pm
By: Chinh Doan

Thousands of unemployed Oklahomans are looking for options to make ends meet during these uncertain times.

Kalee Hale feels peaceful while painting.

"If anything, this has been the light for me through all of this," said Hale.

After non-essential businesses were forced to close two months ago, the 28-year-old bartender rekindled a childhood passion.

"I found a picture of London and it actually kind of looks like one of the skylines I'd taken a picture of," Hale said. "So, it's helped me get through this time.”

While waiting almost eight weeks to get unemployment benefits, Hale started sharing her abstract art on social media.

"People started reaching out, 'Hey, how much is that? Can I buy it?' and I was like, 'OK. This will work. Yeah, I'll do this,'" said Hale.

She's sold four paintings so far and is working on another right now. Hale still hopes to get back to bartending when it's safe.

"I'm really anxious to see what the world is going to be like and what normal is going to be like," Hale said. "For me, at least I know things I'm capable of and I found out more passions. It makes you really grateful for what you had and the interactions and things like that."

Hale is not the only person figuring out a back-up plan, with so many businesses still closed, many employees are looking for ways to come out on top.

"It's an interesting time because so many people are saying, 'I see this an opportunity to upskill and change my field, but I'm kind of waiting to see if my employer will call me back," said Rachel Hutchings.

Her staff at Workforce Tulsa is connecting businesses and people who are unemployed with resources. Hutchings believes what used to be considered "soft skills" are now "job-ready skills," with flexibility and communication the most important.

"Before, the process was, 'When you're dreaming big, what does that look like?' Now, we're taking, 'OK, what are your current skills, and are those transferrable skills?' For instance, if you're food service, you've probably developed a lot of skills around customer service, working in a high-stress situation, teamwork. Those kinds of skills are very valuable in so many other fields," Hutchings said.

June Rogers owns an interior design business.

"If I can come up with an idea where I can work through this where it wouldn't affect my health, then perhaps I can go that route, but being my age, if I'm around any crowds or any group of people that I don't know or where they've been, it would be detrimental to me," said Rogers.

The 67-year-old goes into homes helping people with bathroom and kitchen projects. She's had to put appointments on hold due to COVID-19 concerns.

"I'm praying that this is not going to be forever," Rogers said.

She's hopeful her business will survive the pandemic. While she's waiting for federal government assistance, she's using her skills and also social media to help other unemployed Oklahomans with their application for benefits.

"There are so many people out there that are suffering. They can't even pay their bills. They can't even buy groceries. I just felt compelled to help them," said Rogers.

She's just another example of the Oklahoma Standard, on display during these difficult times.