Center helps former Avondale employees get back on their feet

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August 2, 2006

Former Avondale Mills workers are struggling to find new jobs.

More than a thousand have been officially out of a job for over a week, and their benefits ran out Monday.

The One-Stop Plus Workforce Center has not stopped since opening Monday in Aiken. In just three days, the center has seen hundreds of people, all former Avondale employees ready to move on.

"We're trying to give them quick service so that their lives won't be disturbed," says Ernestine Johnson of One-Stop. "Everything we do collectively is to get that person back to work."

And people like Candace Grissom appreciate the helping hand.

"We don't have a future," Candace says. "Now, through One-Stop and all these other organizations, maybe."

For laid-off worker Candace, the final days at Avondale are fresh on her mind.

"They started cutting hours, and you couldn't get overtime. Some weeks we were only working two days. Do you know what it's like to bring home a check for six dollars? What can you pay with six dollars?"

So the 37-year-old single mother of three took her fate into her own hands. She started classes at Aiken Tech a year ago while keeping her night job.

"It was very hard," she recalls. "For one, I was at the mill from eight at night till eight in the morning. And I'd have just enough time to come home and get showered and be at school from nine to two in the afternoon."

And if you think that sounds like a lot, there's more. Candace also coaches her children's recreational basketball teams at night.

Despite being sleep deprived, she hopes to serve as a good example for her coworkers and her children.

"You think about the benefits in the long run. That's what helps you get through," she says. "Maybe God has something waiting that's better. They say he closes one door and opens up another. So be positive."

Hopefully many who come will see One-Stop as their door to a new beginning.

Candace plans on graduating from Aiken Tech in the next eighteen months and then wants to pursue physical therapy. She hopes to use what she learned at One-Stop to get her through this next part of her journey.

A spokesperson for the group says they have leased the space for two years. New furniture and supplies are on the way to furnish the center, so from the looks of things, One-Stop plans to be of assistance to all who need them for a long time to come.

Avondale Mills was able to salvage some jobs by selling a couple of their Graniteville plants.