Job fair allows unemployed to connect with businesses

PAT FRIDGEN
Green Grove Gardens was buzzing Thursday during a job fair sponsored by Rep. Richard Alloway, Franklin County Area Development Corporation, and PA CareerLink. Companies from a broad employment base and social service organizations were on hand to accept resumes and applications, share information on educational opportunities and offer outlets for assistance.

Over 1,000 hopefuls walked through the doors of Green Grove Gardens last Thursday for the 'Here to Help' job fair. They met with representatives of over 60 companies, who had information on employment opportunities or on assistance from human service providers.

Sen. Rich Alloway sponsored the event in conjunction with Franklin County Area Development Corporation and PA Career Link.

"We knew we had good companies with good paying jobs," said Alloway. "They needed workers, but did the citizens know?"

He saw a sense of optimism in the crowd, which gathered in a line outdoors a half hour before the fair began. The flow of people was steady from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The three entities worked together for two months to organize the day. FCADC president L. Michael Ross and Franklin County Career Link administrator Derrick Donnell assisted, bringing in only vendors who were willing to hire.

Alloway said the job fair met a goal of his, to host a community-wide event, and the topic was so fitting.

"We're never going to get out of this slump until we get people working again," he said.

Byron Rouzer, 24, McConnellsburg, was temporarily laid off in December from a job in the field of fire protection systems, but he guessed it was really permanent. He anticipated finding some leads to a new job.

Mark Lane Jr., 30, Greencastle, was let go from Manitowoc over a year ago, after six years with the manufacturer. Since the company apparently was not calling him back, though it announced plans last week to hire 200 people at the Shady Grove plant, Lane was looking for other opportunities.

J. Daniel Hykes, 55, Waynesboro, grew up in Greencastle. He lost his job with D.L. George and Sons almost two years ago, and carried his resume. His unemployment compensation was running out.

"There are some interesting possibilities here," he said. "I will follow up and hopefully something comes out of this day. If not, it's a flop."

The businesses were enthusiatic with the response. Sally Straley from Verstandig Broadcasting had collected quite a few resumes and applications. They were always looking for parttime deejays, sales and front office personnel. The turnout was better than any college recruitment fair she had attended.

Tiffany Dampier, case manager with PA Mentor, hoped to hire two or three therapeutic staff support by the end of the month, and she was also looking for a mobile therapist. She had positions in Franklin and Fulton counties. She had collected seven resumes that met her minimum qualifications, which was more than she ever got when running an ad. She was also seeking foster care homes.

PathStone, based in Chambersburg, sent representatives George Robinson Sr. and Robert Tillman to share their services to the low income, 55 and over population.

"We place them with non-profits for training, at 20 hours per week," said Tillman. "And we help them find a job in the workplace at the same time."

The organization had placed several individuals at Allison-Antrim Museum over the years.

Cindy Kehr from Keystone Health attended to alert people to options if their COBRA insurance coverage was running out. She wanted anyone in a tough financial situation to realize there were services available to help them with prescription medications.

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau participated to show people that if they couldn't afford to take an expensive vacation, there were activities available right around the corner.

"They don't have to spend money to travel," said Mary Harris. "There is lots to do locally."

She had passed out brochures to people from the county, Hagerstown and West Virginia.

Deb Bear, 41, Shippensburg, speaks with a potential employer at the “Here to Help” job fair Feb. 3. A representative from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania explained how to search the state website for current openings. Bear was laid off from Schreiber Foods in April 2010.