MEXICO – Dot Chopping of Dixfield lost her job at Kids Peace in Lewiston a few months ago. Jeff Belanger of Mexico and Jason Theriault of Rumford lost their paper mill jobs at NewPage Corp. last month. And Phil Schuster of Peru found himself without his security guard job at Irving Forest Products a couple of weeks ago.

They, and dozens of others, turned out Thursday afternoon at the second resource fair hosted by the Region 9 School of Applied Technology. They were checking out resources available in the community and trying to decide what their next step would be.

“The first resource fair got the word out about what’s available,” said Region 9 adult education director Nancy Allen of a smaller fair held about a month ago. “Now, people realize they need the service.”

Opportunities awaited those who visited the event.

At least two potential employers were among the two dozen or so booths set up, along with recruiters from the Army National Guard. Bankers were there to help people with their 401(k) accounts and the Department of Health and Human Services offered help for free and reduced lunch programs and food supplements.

Training opportunities were also available.

Ed Naples, a truck driving instructor for Region 9, said his adult class is full this session, with many laid-off workers from Wassau Paper in Jay among his students. The next session, set to begin in April, already has several former NewPage Corp. workers signed up.

“The stimulus package means construction, and construction means truck drivers are needed,” he said.

Carol Emery of the Healthy Maine Partnership was among service providers attending the fair to help people deal with stress that losing a job can cause.

Belanger, 25, and Theriault, 31, were in the first wave of layoffs from Rumford’s NewPage mill since the announcement that 130 workers would lose their jobs a few weeks ago.

Both expect to be taking further training to prepare them for new jobs.

Belanger said he was locked into training funds under the Trade Reimbursement Act when he was laid off a couple of years ago. Theriault’s not sure if he’s eligible for similar training.

More people turned out this time than last.

According to the Maine Labor Market Digest, the Rumford area had a 10.8 percent unemployment rate, and Oxford County, a 9.2 percent unemployment rate, at the end of December. That number has risen since more companies have announced layoffs during the past two months.


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