Nonprofits help unemployed

By Jennifer Whytock

North Carolina nonprofits are responding to layoffs at Pillowtex and other firms by creating funds and offering services for unemployed workers.

The Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte created the Pillowtex Carolinas Care Fund and has received over $13,000, mostly in individual donations of less than $100, says Laura Meyer, the foundation’s executive vice president.

The foundation also plans to give $25,000, separate from the fund, to bolster local agencies strained by the demands of layoffs at Pillowtex and other manufacturers, she says.

United Way of Central Carolinas has helped over 1,500 former Pillowtex workers at a United Way-coordinated service center at Kimball Memorial Lutheran Church in Kannapolis, home of Pillowtex headquarters.

About 80 unemployed Pillowtex workers also have called United Way’s 2-1-1 free access phone number for health and human services information and referrals to community and government agencies, says Diane Wright, vice president of marketing for United Way of Central Carolinas.

The Duke Energy Foundation will give $25,000 to three nonprofit health and human service agencies in the hardest-hit counties, including American Red Cross of Rockingham County, Cabarrus Cooperative Christian Ministries, and Rowan Helping Ministries, says Valerie Patterson, Duke Energy spokesperson.

Pillowtex, which makes bedding and bath products, announced July 30 it would lay off 6,450 employees in the U.S., most of them in North Carolina, and will eliminate the remaining 1,200 positions when bankruptcy proceedings end and the company permanently closes.

Across North Carolina, many workers are losing their jobs in textile, furniture and other manufacturing industries, prompting some to question the focus on Pillowtex.

“Most of the response has been very positive, except there have been a few concerns about why only Pillowtex workers are being helped and not workers who have been laid off by other companies,” says Meyer.

“The emphasis on Pillowtex has been a catalyst to create awareness of other affected industries, and we are talking with individuals about creating funds to help those other unemployed workers,” she says.

The Duke Energy Foundation, for example, just gave $25,000 to the Foundation for the Carolinas to set up the Duke Energy-Carolinas Work Force Outreach Fund to assist unemployed workers in all industries in North and South Carolina, including Pillowtex workers.

The fund will support human service agencies, technical schools, community colleges and other groups that provide retraining and work force reentry services for people seeking work in many different fields.

And the Foundation for the Carolinas plans to announce this week that it will manage a large fund that Gov. Mike Easley helped to create by encouraging corporate and individual donations, says Meyer.

The fund, tentatively called the “North Carolina Job Loss Fund”, will help unemployed workers throughout North Carolina, especially in manufacturing and industry, such as furniture and textiles.

Easley already has commitments of $380,000 from Wachovia, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina, Bank of America, Duke Energy, PSNC Energy and Piedmont Natural Gas.

To contribute call the Foundation for the Carolinas at (704) 973-4500.

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