HARRODSBURG, Ky. (KT) – Hitachi’s layoffs sent a “ripple” through the community and Harrodsburg Baptist Church wanted to soften the setback with a little help.
The Southern Baptist church gave away nearly $14,000 in gift cards to either a local grocery store or discount retailer at the Mercer County Public Library’s job fair on Friday, Oct. 26.
“It’s just a little help for right now,” said pastor Paul Gibson. “We want people to know Harrodsburg Baptist sincerely cares about them, and God cares about them.”
Like many in the city, Gibson said church members were concerned after learning about layoffs at the automotive electronics manufacturer. Only eight years ago, Hitachi invested in a large expansion and had since doubled its workforce to about 1,400.
“You could feel a palpable ripple through the community,” Gibson said.
Judge Executive Milward Dedman said Hitachi is one of the biggest employers in Mercer County and draws workers regionally, much like manufacturers Corning and Wausau Paper.
“Your always concerned when something like this happens,” said Dedman “It was 107 jobs lost, but it could have been much worse.”
The judge executive said he’s not sure how many residents in his county were affected by the layoffs and he won’t know the full impact of the loss until next quarter.
Bureau of Labor Statistics cited unemployment in the county at 4.1 percent last May.
Dedman said the community has rallied behind the former Hitachi workers, and Bluegrass Community and Technical College has jumped in to offer its assistance.
Robin Ison, director of the Mercer County library, said her small staff felt compelled to help and came up with the idea for the job fair.
“We are always choosing programs that really hit the needs of our people and when this happened, we said, ‘We got to do something,’” Ison said.
About 30 companies turned out for Friday’s job fair with applications in hand. As a member of Harrodsburg Baptist, Ison asked her church to help by providing sack lunches. The fair was held most of the day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Harrodsburg Baptist took Ison’s request a few steps further by donating the gift cards. The original goal was to raise $10,000.
Church members also provided childcare at the job fair while moms and dads meet with potential employers.
“The neatest thing is to see the church’s response. It has lit a fire under them,” Gibson said. “It’s brought a sense of unity, of purpose, and more than anything, it’s brought excitement.”
Gibson said gift cards were accompanied with information about Harrodsburg Baptist and handwritten notes letting people know church members “prayed over the person receiving the card.”
He said the church was able to help around 130 people with the monetary gifts and is looking at ways to be a blessing in the future.