Freebies for the Unemployed

unemployedIn the true spirit of peace on the earth, good will to... men and women who are unemployed, a couple of businesses in the Northeast are offering their services free to those who are out of work and need a little extra help landing a job.

One such company is a dry cleaner in Manhattan that will clean your job interview outfit for free. The other is a romantic bed-and-breakfast inn that will give one couple each month a two-night midweek getaway, including accommodations and full breakfasts, as well as a candlelight dinner on one night, and an old fashioned rabbit's foot for good luck.

A free getaway

The Rabbit Hill Inn in Lower Waterford, Vt., started offering free stays to the unemployed in 2009 as a way to give a much-needed break to couples struggling to stay afloat. They've decided to continue the offer because, "It's not going away," said Leslie Mulcahy, who runs the inn with her husband, Brian. "The people unemployed last year are still unemployed this year."

The Mulcahys first got acquainted with the Rabbit Hill Inn when Brian lost his job in the financial slump of 1992. Even thought they couldn't really afford it, they went there to escape their financial worries for a weekend and became so enamored with it they came back to become assistant innkeepers. In 1997, they were able to purchase the 19-room country inn.

Hoping to provide the same kind of rejuvenation to others dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety of unemployment, the Mulcahys launched the Pink Slip Getaway Giveaway. They never expected the unemployment situation would stay so dire for so long, but since it has, they've extended the giveaway program to last throughout 2011, beginning in January.

Couples 25 or older who have been experiencing the frustration of unemployment for 12 months or more are encouraged to send their story to the Rabbit Hill Inn. One couple will be selected each month. All they have to do is send a letter or e-mail by June 15, 2011 explaining their story in one page or less to:

Rabbit Hill Inn Getaway Giveaway
P.O. Box 55
Lower Waterford, VT 05848

Taken to the cleaners

If you're not lucky enough to win a getaway at the Rabbit Hill Inn, but you are fortunate enough to score a job interview, Carolos and Arelis Vasquez of First Professional Cleaners on the upper East Side of Manhattan will help you out. Jane McEntyre, a Madison Avenue publicist, noticed a hand-lettered sign in their window and thought it was such a nice gesture she let AOL know about it, even though they are not her clients.

The sign in their window on East 72nd Street between First and Second reads: "If you are unemployed and need an outfit clean for a interview we will clean it for free."

This is one instance, however, when free publicity is not always a good thing. "We started it in September of 2001 to help the people in our neighborhood who had lost their jobs after 9/11," says owner Carlos Vasquez. "We wanted to do it to help the local community -- if you were walking by and saw the sign and needed it, we'd clean your suit for you. We don't advertise."

But when the Daily News ran a feature on it, Vasquez says people started coming in from Brooklyn, the Bronx, downtown and uptown, to have their suits cleaned for free. Expenses came out of Vasquez's own pocket, and it was getting difficult.

A feature on the local Fox affiliate fixed that. "People started sending in donations that covered the surge," explained Vasquez. "Now we have enough in that fund to cover what people bring to us."

So have they heard back from anyone who they've helped land a job? Vasquez says they have several regular customers who got the position they were applying for in the suit Vasquez cleaned for them. But he notes that that wasn't the point of the offer. "I think when you do good things for people, good things come back around," he says.

If you're doing anything out of the ordinary to help the unemployed, or know of anyone who else might be making such a charitable gesture, AOL would like to hear about it. Good will can be contagious, and it never hurts to spread it around.

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