SHELTON, Wash. (6/1/15)--Upon learning recently that three area mills were closing--leaving hundreds of community members without work--two Shelton, Wash.-based credit unions stepped up in a major way to help the affected employees grapple with the trying time.
With the sales of Simpson Lumber Co. LLC and Olympic Panel Products--located in Shelton--roughly 500 people in the Mason County area are expected to lose their jobs, many of whom have worked in the mills for decades.
In response, Bert Fisher, president/CEO, Our Community CU, and Jim Morrell, president/CEO, Peninsula Community FCU, gathered with other community leaders to put on a Community Resource Fair.
At the fair, attendees could learn about financial planning resources, faith-based support and educational resources.
“We were concentrating on helping people find the courage, strength and capacity to reinvent themselves and create a new future for themselves, because that’s what they have to do going forward,” Fisher told News Now Friday.
More than 200 people attended the event, which also was organized by the local chamber of commerce and the local economic development corporation.
Morrell, who said that Peninsula actually organized a similar event several years ago in the throes of sequestration for employees and military members from a local Navy yard, added that this event didn’t just provide the employees tangible resources, it also served as a reminder that the community, as a whole, was there to support them.
“I think the message that Bert and I have talked about is critically important,” Morrell told News Now. “People have to communicate. Once they begin communicating and sharing what’s going on, then they can begin to identity the resources they can incorporate into their situations and their financial lives.
“We can’t stop everybody on the sidewalk, but we can put signs out that say, ‘We’re here to provide assistance. We’re here to help. We care. We care about you. We care about this community. And it’s part of who we are to do that.’”
In addition to the fair, Our Community put together a transition team specifically for affected employees from the mills.
When a mill employee calls in or visits one of the credit union’s branches, they can talk to one of 33 high-level staff members about what options they have.
Further, at the event last week, both credit unions handed out copies of Jean Chatzky’s book, “Money Rules: The Simple Path to Lifelong Security,” a book on debt management and budgeting, and information on resume writing and job searching, among other resources.
“This is definitely a challenge for the community, but the community is definitely rallying around those affected,” Fisher said.