WAKARUSA — Ed Neufeldt vowed to wear three green bracelets until unemployment rates fell below 7 percent. He told The Elkhart Truth in 2012, “I may be wearing them to my casket,” but on Thursday they came off.
“I thought that would never happen,” he said looking at the bracelets in his hand.
Unemployment rates posted this week prompted Neufeldt to symbolically remove his three bracelets, which represented unemployment rates in the U.S., Indiana and Elkhart County. Rates in all three are now below seven percent.
Originally, he set the unemployment threshold at 5 percent for removing his bracelets. He reconsidered three months later and made a new goal of seven percent.
“That would almost be impossible,” he said.
Neufeldt lost his job of 32 years at Monaco Coach Corp. during the 2008 economic recession and eventually found part-time jobs. That is when he started wearing the bracelets, which displayed the words “green jobs for America.”
One of those jobs was at an electric motor company and he hoped companies like it would help lower Elkhart County’s unemployment rate, but now the company is no longer located in Indiana.
“We thought at first the electronic motor industry would change Elkhart,” he said.
Now, Neufeldt works multiple part-time jobs. He cleans a medical clinic in Wakarusa, delivers bread for Lewis’s Bakery based in LaPorte and works at Martin’s Super Market stocking bread.
“I like what I’m doing,” he said. He wants to continue working those jobs despite receiving offers for other work.
“I’m not making $20 an hour, but I’m surviving,” he said.
Neufeldt began speaking about unemployment to media outlets especially after he introduced President Obama during his visit to Elkhart County in 2009. Neufeldt said he thinks he has had 80 media interviews since.
The future of Elkhart County, he said, is optimistic.
“Elkhart County has hope for the future,” he said. His 18-year-old daughter recently started her first job.
“Five years ago,” he said, “you couldn’t event go out and get a job.”
“I think Elkhart County is blessed,” he said. “We have recovered.”