When the search for a job becomes a full-time quest

Outside, in the dark of a January morning, streams of headlights guide thousands to work.

Inside, in the basement of Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Olathe, 20 middle-aged men and women close their eyes, bow their heads and pray.

For jobs.

Lord … we look around the room and see all of the gifts that are represented here, all of the skills and all of the energy. … We know that those who hope in you won’t be disappointed.

Darren Wright needs this to be true. He's been living disappointment.

"Sixty days," he had once figured.

That's how long he thought it would take him to find a new job – a decent-paying job like the one the 42-year-old vice president and, before that, Hallmark middle manager, used to have. The one that delivered his version of the American Dream: cars, savings, a 5,000-square-foot home in Olathe for him and his wife, Kelly, and the kids, Madison, 11, and Stuart, 8.

"Sixty days," Wright remembered thinking. "It won't take any longer than that."

That was 177 days ago, on the Friday before Labor Day, when he was let go from a toy distributor because of hard times.

It was before his severance ran out and before $2,100 began draining from the family savings each month for bills.

It was before he watched two neighbors abandon their homes to foreclosure, and before he had to reassure his daughter that all would be OK after she asked, "Dad, will we have to move?"

It was before Darren Wright knew what it meant to be among the searchers.

For the last month Wright allowed The Kansas City Star to chronicle his search – a journey of a type now being experienced by millions nationwide, more than 62,000 around Kansas City.

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