Laid-off workers find help, support at event Friday
By Shavonne Potts
After 13 years and five months of working at Freightliner, Dorothy Partlow found herself without a job.
She was one of many laid off from the Cleveland company March 13, and she’s not found much in the way of employment in Rowan County, she said.
Numerous Rowan County businesses and agencies offered food and other services Friday during a layoff assistance program to people who, like Partlow, have been out of work. The people who received the help got personal invitations.
Jackie Harris, with the Rowan County United Way, said the assistance given Friday will reach more than 1,330 people. And she said food left over after the event will help even more through three local agencies to which it was given.
Food Lion and many of its vendors supplied food, the Hurley Family YMCA provided the location and many more agencies, including Rowan Regional Medical Center, the city of Salisbury and Rowan County government brought in the volunteers.
Partlow, of Salisbury, said she was very appreciative of the help, especially from Food Lion.
“It’s a blessing we have organizations like this,” she said.
Partlow said the groceries she received will provide for her, her husband and their 7-year-old son for a week or more.
After searching for jobs, she has decided to return to school with aid from a Freightliner program that will help pay for books for two years.
Partlow plans to go into the medical field and wants to become a surgical technician. When she was a teenager, she did some work in the medical field.
Her advice to others in a similar situation: “Keep your head up.”
“You are not the only one,” she said.
Partlow said she enjoyed her time at Freightliner and appreciates what the company was able to do for its employees through the union, such as continue their health insurance for six months after their termination.
She spends a lot of time advocating for having a smoke-free work environment through her “Let Me Breathe” T-shirts. Although she was grateful for a job at Freightliner, her chief concern was the company allowed workers to smoke on the line.
“That’s not a good environment,” she said.
Christopher Shulenburger was laid off from Auto Truck Transport Corp. in Cleveland after four years. He’s experienced several layoffs over the past two years.
“It’s been very sporadic. I’d work three or four months then get laid off,” he said.
Other commercial trucking jobs have offered wages much lower than he’s used to earning. He said some jobs pay 23 cents per mile, an amount he made eight years ago when he started in the business.
Shulenburger plans to go back to school, also to pursue a career in the medical field.
For now, the food he got Friday will help him, his wife and their four children, he said.
Although he was appreciative of the food and other services offered at the YMCA, he found it embarrassing.
It’s difficult “when you’re used to providing for yourself,” he said.
Burt Brinson, president of the Rowan County United Way, said the agency mailed about 3,000 fliers.
“We fully want them to take advantage,” he said.
Brinson said he also hopes people can find help from any of the other participating agencies that “might could help them make it through a tough patch.”
Other agencies included Rowan Helping Ministries, Family Crisis Council, Department of Social Services, Goodwill and Main Street Missions in China Grove.
This is the second time the United Way has partnered with other agencies to provide products and services to the community. The first time was in 2003, when Pillowtex laid off thousands of workers.
The agencies hope to relieve some of the anxiety people have had about their meals and other issues that may have arisen as a result of being out of work.
Food Lion and other donors provided about 10,000 pounds of food and goods worth $15,000.
“It’s a community-wide effort,” said Rick Parker with Rowan Regional Medical Center.
Parker said the hospital also had health screenings and exercise therapists on hand.
“Even though this is worldwide, we want to take care of our own,” Parker said.
The hospital is also taking care of employees who have spouses without jobs.
They will help them with resumes and interviewing skills.
Valarie Stewart, also with Rowan Regional, said the event was a way to give back to the community.
Sandy Flowers, with the YMCA, said people have been so gracious and thankful for the help.
“It’s such a special opportunity to come together for a common cause,” she said.
Salisbury and Rowan County also helped provide some of the food for the day.
City spokeswoman Karen Wilkinson said the city also provided law enforcement officers, van shuttle service from the mall and translation services.
“The city is very proud and honored to be here. Our goal is to support those affected,” Wilkinson said.
Rowan County employees, including some county maintenance personnel, volunteered to unpack food and help with crowd control, said Joani Hess.
Hess, a county employee, said some employees just stopped by the YMCA on Thursday to unload the food trucks.
“It’s another great way to help out,” Hess said.