Job fair offers help to local displaced workers

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By Alice Du Pont

Each morning, instead of going to his job at Quincy Farms, Ronald Anderson gets up at the usual 6:30 a.m. and heads to his kitchen. He'd rather be going out to work but instead he prepares breakfast for his wife before she goes to work.

"That's the hardest part for me, watching my wife go to work every day. I clean the house and I've been looking for work, in Leon County, at Florida State Hospital and all over Gadsden County, but I haven't had any luck," Anderson said.

Like his nearly 500 coworkers, Anderson, who had worked as a heavy equipment operator for almost 10 years, lost his job when the company suspended operations at the Quincy site. His last day on the job was Nov. 26. Anderson has received one unemployment check but he wants a job.

"I could have possibly worked a few weeks longer but it was coming up to Christmas and this other guy had kids so I left a little early so he could stay on," he said.

Anderson and others, mostly Quincy Farms workers, were taking advantage of a job and information fair at the local Workforce Plus office. Workforce Chief Executive Officer Kim Moore said last week’s fair is one of three planned for help workers find a job or get their names on a list.

Tri-Eagle doesn't have any openings currently but they were taking applications for four positions that might become open within the next 30-60 days. T-Formation, a T-shirt operation in Midway, didn't have any openings either. But this is the company's slow time of the year and production is expected to increase by February. Fully staffed, the company has about 140 employees.

In addition to companies on hand to take applications, Sharon Washington, a supervisor with the Agency for Workforce Innovation, was helping people like Lillie Jenkins file for unemployment compensation. Jenkins' last day at Quincy Farms was Dec. 26 after 12 years with the company.

"I'm helping them enter claims so they can get compensation. For a lot of these people this is the first time they've done this and they are a little unsure of the procedures. That's why I'm here to help them navigate through the system," Washington said.

"What do I have to do?" Jenkins asked Washington.

"You can fill out these forms or you can go online. That will be easier and quicker," she replied.

But Jenkins is approaching 60 years old, has no computer at home and has no computer skills.

Only a few people stopped by Mary Williams' table to discuss finances. Williams, a counselor with Consumer Credit Counseling Service, said many people make the mistake of not planning when they're out of work.

"Even when they get unemployment compensation the time to cut back is now. We will help them prioritize their needs over their wants. Unemployment (checks) last about 26 weeks but they could be out of work for a month or a year. They still have to live," Williams said.

There is also a service that will help the laid-off workers keep their homes if they find themselves behind in their mortgage," Williams said.

Details and information will be available Jan. 26 from 3 to 4:40 p.m. and from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Workforce Plus office on West Clark Street and Pat Thomas Parkway in Quincy.