SELINSGROVE — An estimated 500 job-seekers attended a job fair at the VFW in Selinsgrove where 67 companies were offering employment one week after the abrupt shutdown of the Wood-Mode plant in nearby Kreamer.
Former Wood-Mode worker Jamie Drum of Freeburg picked up several applications but was still visibly reeling from the sudden plant closure.
"Nothing's going to pay what we were paid. A lot of these jobs are a 40-minute drive," the mother of two said. "I was driving five minutes (to Wood-Mode) and making $20 an hour."
It took Tim Foreman years to land a position at Wood-Mode five years ago and he thought he had a job for life.
"It's hard not to compare" the pay and benefits at his former job to the jobs being offered, the Freeburg resident said.
Masco Cabinetry materials manager Don Fetzer and his colleagues set up a booth at the VFW hoping to lure some skilled displaced workers but acknowledged it may be a tough sell.
"We're located in Sayre, about 2 1/2 hours away but I don't think there are enough opportunities here for more than 900 employees," said Fetzer, who added that Masco has eight facilities across the Eastern United States.
Despite the distance, Masco Cabinetry human resources manager Ana de Los Santos said the company had collected 11 resumes in the first hour of the four-hour event.
Most of the companies at the fair were located within 50 miles of Wood-Mode, said Erica Mulberger, executive director at Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corp.
Looking out over the VFW parking lot overflowing with vehicles parked along Route 522 and at nearby businesses, Mulberger said she was overwhelmed by the response to the job fair which had been set up prior to the plant closure.
"This is the busiest job fair I've ever been to," said Tracy Hoover, human resources director at Bloomsburg Carpet Industries.
Scott Kramer, a 58-year-old Kratzerville resident with 35 years of experience at Wood-Mode, left the event with a few job interviews lined up.
Scott Brosius said he's still having a hard time coping with sudden job loss after 33 years.
"I still have tears. This not only hurts the community but it went worldwide," he said.
Like his former colleagues, Brosius said he's been taken aback by the many offers of aid from the community as well as services provided by Career Link, United Way and Community Action Agency.
After years of donating to the Snyder County Library System, Brosius said he visited the Rudy Gelnett Library in Selinsgrove and received help in creating a new resume.
Twenty-six former Wood-Mode employees have received help from library staff and volunteers Amibika Sawhney and Aaron Fast in building resumes in the past week, said Mitch Alday, programming manager at the library.
"Some of these people have never written a resume in their life because they worked at Wood-Mode for 40 years," he said, describing how two employees wept when he handed them their finished resumes. "I've seen fear, anger, sadness, hopefulness."
"All the stages of grief," said Ed Brennan, a volunteer coordinator.
The library is also offering free use of computers and library cards to unemployed workers looking for new jobs.
Alday said the staff and volunteers are available to assist in job-application efforts but are not able to offer job searching tips.
Another job fair exclusively for former Wood-Mode employees will be held June 4 at the Selinsgrove Elementary School. Mulberger said 84 companies have signed up to attend and there's space for 40 more.