The surest sign this recession has touched everything we love: even our mascots are now homeless.

Kendell Woolridge spent last week sleeping at Penn Station in Newark. It's a far cry from the time he was Ruppert, the costumed mascot of the Newark Bears. But the independent leagues have never been a way to get rich, and even then, times were tough.

Woolridge would perform at games in costume, and make PR appearances around North Jersey as Ruppert. After the games he would clean the clubhouse and wash the players' uniforms. All of this wasn't enough to afford a place to stay: he would sleep in the stadium.

In 2007 the Bears came under new ownership, and Woolridge lost his job. He's bounced from friend's house to friend's house, picking up assorted supermarket and pharmacy jobs. Finally, last week, he had nowhere to go.

I'm 23," he said. "I'm not supposed to be homeless. I shouldn't be living like this."


But this story has a happy ending — at least, happier. On Friday Woolridge walked into the Bears offices, and managed to get his old job back. He'll suit up again as Ruppert next month, and for the length of the season.

Think about that next time you decide you're too cool for the mascot's antics.

Former Newark Bears mascot, now homeless, shows how recession hits home [Newark Star-Ledger]