“There were about 200 people standing in line when we opened,” said Pastor Donald Gover of Life Family Worship Center in Pell City. “We have had a steady stream of people all morning.”
Gover said some of the employers had to get more copies of applications and other job information because they ran out of supplies before 11 a.m.
A Talladega woman, who did not wish to be named, said she found out about Job Fair Plus from her daughter.
“My job was cut back to 20 hours a week,” she said. “I can’t make it on 20 hours a week.”
The woman said she spent 23 years in the textiles industry, including working for Avondale Mills in Pell City.
“When we got laid off when the mill closed, a lot of people had to go into their 401(k) and take a penalty,” she said. “It’s a no-win situation.”
The woman said at 60 years old, she is too young for Social Security, and starting over is rough.
Cory Busha of Pell City said although he has an associates degree in IT networking, he has been unable to find a job in his field so far and is working for a retail store.
“When I was hired, I was told I would work an average of 29 hours a week,” he said. “Now, I average 5-20 hours a week. I can’t live on 5 hours a week.”
Busha said four other employees from the same store were planning to attend Job Fair Plus.
“When you ask for more hours, they tell you there are no more hours available,” he said. “I was told to quit or get used to it — not in those exact terms but pretty much.”
Susan Delenne, director of communications for Alagasco, said they were handing out information on available positions, and also contact information for the job line and website.
“If they don’t find anything today, they can check back later,” she said.
Delenne said she couldn’t believe the interest in Job Fair Plus.
“I saw a long line when we came to set up,” she said. “And we have seen hundreds of people this morning. I think it’s a good thing — there is a wide variety of ages and education levels here today.”
Don Smith, executive director of the St. Clair County Economic Development Council, said the EDC contacted about every company in St. Clair County about Job Fair Plus.
“There was a lot of interest,” he said. “We are here today collecting information on unemployed and underemployed people and forwarding it (with their permission) to any existing industry in St. Clair County that was unable to attend.”
Smith said attendees were excited about the opportunities offered at Job Fair Plus.
“It really shows the community cares about those who are struggling,” he said.
Jonathan Spann, a probation and patrol officer for St. Clair County, was telling attendees about restoration of civil and political rights.
“After being convicted of a felony, you lose your right to vote, to possess firearms, run for office, and to obtain licenses and bonds,” he said. “We are telling people how to restore those rights.”
Spann said three main criteria are a completed sentence, not owing money (court costs, restitution, etc.), and having no cases pending.
“Restoration of civil and political rights can help people job-wise,” he said. “A pardon is an indication to employers that the person it taking steps to improve their lifestyle.”
Dr. Bobby Hathcock, superintendent of Pell City schools, said Job Fair Plus is a great thing for the people in the area.
“I applaud the city and companies for doing this,” he said. “There is a lot of interest.”
“There has been a phenomenal turnout so far,” said Marie Manning, St. Clair County enrollment specialist for Jefferson State Community College. “Many folks are trying to retool and get an education for better job opportunities. There has been unbelievable interest.”
Councilman James McGowan said the number of people at Job Fair Plus was way over his expectations.
“It shows you how people are really trying to find jobs,” he said.
Mayor Bill Hereford said based on what he saw Thursday, he feels holding another Job Fair Plus is a good idea.
“If the economy improves, hopefully we won’t need Job Fair Plus in the future,” he said. “But for now, I think the idea of holding another one in the near future is a good idea and I support it.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.