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Furloughed feds cope by sharing their experience

Wednesday - 10/9/2013, 5:18pm  ET

WASHINGTON -- From Northern Virginia to suburban Maryland, furloughed friends are, no doubt, chatting on their cells, swapping emails and meeting for coffee.

A small group of furloughed federal workers came together today in a community meeting room in northwest Washington to commiserate about their plight.

"We're all going through the same thing ... people just want to talk, we don't want the judgmental, we don't want to get into screaming matches or political arguments, we just want to talk," says the organizer of the gathering, Adele Dantzler, a human resources trainer who is furloughed from the General Accounting Office.

Dantlzer says she got the idea to have a community meeting of furloughed workers when she woke up one morning at 4 a.m. in a panic.

There's a need for people to come together and talk when you're unemployed and don't know when your next paycheck is going to come," she says

For an hour they consoled each other, talked about challenges, fears and personal successes during the shutdown and shared strategies for coping.

"It's a hardship," Dantzler says. For many federal workers, the furlough came during the middle of a pay period, so they'll receive just a half-paycheck next week. "Then, after that, it's no paycheck," Danztler says.

She says the private meeting was very positive, with furloughed federal workers "sharing common experiences" and exchanging ideas for generating income and searching for a job.

Dantzler recommends DC.gov for helpful resources and she has personal advice for her colleagues coping with the furlough.

"Getting up the same time when you had a job, getting dressed, taking a shower, wearing clean clothes every day and not overeating," she says.

She says there's a sense of pride among her colleagues who are eager to see the dispute resolved.

"We are proud to be federal workers and we just want to get back to work."

As the shutdown grinds on, Dantzler expresses a willingness to schedule more community meetings where furloughed federal workers can vent, but she'd be grateful if the first such meeting is the last.

"Hopefully there will not be a need for this next week," she says.

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