Hundreds turn out for resource, education fair

Published 9:14 am Friday, March 5, 2010

FRANKLIN—A few hundred people, many of them employees of International Paper Co. and their families, turned out for the “Community Resource and Education Fair” on Wednesday.

“I think all in all it’s been a positive day,” said Beth Reavis, director of Franklin Department of Social Services and chairwoman of the Western Tidewater Coalition. She estimated that about 200 people attended the fair, which was held at the Paul D. Camp Community College Regional Workforce Development Center. Opportunity Inc. of Hampton Roads, a regional workforce organization based in Norfolk, organized the event.

“The vendors are spending a lot of time talking to one another, learning about each other’s services, which is always a positive thing,” Reavis said. “That was kind of an unintended positive consequence of the fair.”

She added that people would still be able to receive help after the fair.

“We’ve been getting a lot of information to people,” Reavis said. “The resource books that we printed have information about every resource that was at the fair. We can continue to pass them out, and the providers can take them home and pass them out to their consumers that come in for services in their areas. That way they’ll know about the other resources here.”

Pamela Barton, director of Isle of Wight Department of Social Services, said she thought the event went well.

“I think the people that came were helped,” Barton said. “They liked the things that were here. We had a lot of variety and it was certainly good for the community vendors to get to know what other people were offering as well. There was a huge selection and it will be a huge benefit to the people who came.”

One of the people who came was Joseph Richmond of Newsoms, who has worked at the International Paper Co. mill in Franklin for 25 years and currently operates a bulldozer there. He said he came to the fair for help with his finances.

“I’m still not really sure what to do after the mill,” Richmond said. “I’ve got 401(k)s and retirement money. It’s just a matter of whether or not I should retire. If I retire, then I won’t get any unemployment. So I thought my best bet would be to stay on until the end, that way I would have unemployment coming plus (the option of going to) school would be paid for. If I wanted to start a business of my own, I could do that too.”

Richmond added, “There’s a lot of options that are open to me, it’s just deciding which is the best one.”

Larry Hill, a resident of Boykins who works for the state Department of Corrections as a power plant employee at Sussex II State Prison, also attended the fair.

“I just came to see what was being offered,” Hill said. “At the present I don’t have any job issues or anything like that. I just wanted to collect information because it’s always good to know, and then I can share it with somebody that may need some information that was here but did not have an opportunity to attend.”

Barton acknowledged that more people were expected at the fair.

“The weather didn’t work in our favor in terms of numbers,” Barton said. “We were prepared for more people and hoped that we would have had more.”

Vanessa Jones, eligibility supervisor for Southampton Social Services, characterized the people who attended the fair as “still kind of depressed.”

“I think the unknown, of not knowing exactly how everything is going to be and what the future holds, still upsets people,” Jones said.

Rev. Chuck Worth, of True Word Christian Church in Franklin, was at the fair to promote Angel Food Ministries, a nonprofit organization that provides boxes of food for a family at a low price.

“Even if we only help two, three or fou