ERT seeks to help ex VF's

Published 7:41 am Sunday, February 3, 2002

By Staff
Brian Blackley, Publisher
An Emergency Response Team was in Atmore Monday and Tuesday to let the more than 500 employees affected by the closing of the Atmore Vanity Fair closing know what their options are as they seek to cope with the financial strain the unemployment is bringing them.
"This is something that is part of law," said Dolores Sturma, human resources manager of the Atmore Vanity Fair operation. "We are required to notify several different agencies when we announce the plant closing and they assemble an Emergency Response Team to come to the area and let people know how they can apply for a number of state and federal assistance programs."
Sturma said the meetings, held Monday and Tuesday, brought between 100 and 150 people to each of the four sessions.
"Most of these are our local Vanity Fair employees," she said. "Because of time constraints and limitations, we went ahead and invited 54 people from the Vanity Fair operation in Monroeville who are also losing their positions due to downsizing in the area."
Allen Friday, of the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs was the featured speaker at each session. Participants were given a packet that included contact information for a number of local agencies that offer assistance in the form of money, food, education subsidies, health care and a number of other things related to coping with the loss of a job.
"There are options out there for you," Friday said. "You may qualify for unemployment benefits, medical benefits and other things that will help you move through this situation."
Friday's presentation ran about 90 minutes, with most of the time spent working through more than 100 pages of materials handed out that cover a gamut of questions from health care benefits, rolling over retirement plans, the tax implications of cashing out a 401K plan, how to qualify children affected for school lunches and a number of other items.
Information passed out includes commonly asked questions like how to design a good resume, where to apply for benefits and how to cope emotionally with the trauma of a layoff.
"This brings an opportunity for some of you to seek to get additional education in a field in which you're interested," Friday said. "There are programs available that can help you get enrolled in a two-year program so you can learn a skill and spend time doing something where there will be a job demand when you complete the program. There are lots of programs out there."
Officials from local colleges and two-year vocational institutions were set up in the hallway outside the auditorium at the Atmore Lions Club Community Center.
Education representatives had information for those affected explaining how they could apply for admission and how they could work with various agencies to secure funds to go back to school.
According to Sturma, Vanity Fair employees who were unable to attend one of the sessions may pick up materials at her office.
"The point of this is to educate them on what is available for them and who they need to contact in order to receive the benefits they need," Sturma said. "There are some people who have kids and who have health care needs, others who have retirement programs and things of this nature. These sessions, sponsored by the state and Vanity Fair, are designed to let them know what they are legally entitled to under the law."
The Atmore Area Chamber of Commerce was also active in the program, allowing use of facilities and helping coordinate the event.
Sturma said employees who need additional information may contact her to receive packets that explain programs and contact information for those programs.
The closing of Vanity Fair will officially take place on March 22, but 86 employees have already been released.

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