- One former mill employee shares the changes he's had to make since the Georgia-Pacific mill closure in Perry.
- He says Christmas looks different for his family this year.
- Watch the video to find out how the town is coping a month after the mill's official closure and find out more about on-the-ground resources providing support.
"Taylor County strong", that's what neighbors are telling me. It's a community that's proven its resilience over the last 3 months following Hurricane Idalia, and then the closure of the Georgia-Pacific Mill.
I'm talking to community members about how this town is coping just over a month after its official closure, and finding out about on the ground resources working to help.
"The tone of Perry, you know just, it just don't feel the same," said Brent Hendry, former employee at the Georgia-Pacific Foley Cellulose mill - one of the county's largest employers. He worked their for six years.
"Everything felt better, and felt more right, when the mill was going, and normality was here," said Hendry.
Hendry said some of his former coworkers have had to relocate to find other work. That wasn't an option for Hendry who has his family and parents here. He says the community stepped up in great ways.
"A lot of local facilities around here started pulling in people and saying you've got a job with us if you want it," said Hendry. Hendry said he was one of the lucky ones who found a job, he says some people are still looking for work.
It's something that Diane Head with CareerSource North Florida knows all about. They set up a new office here as part of their response. She also has a community-led focus.
"We're going to continue doing the best we can to put local employers in front of local talent," said Head. Head said they've been helping a number of people reskill and upskill.
"We'll help you as much as we can whether it's through assignments or building a plan, helping you go to school, whatever those next steps are," said Head.
It's all about navigating the long-term impacts said Pastor David Johnson. He said Perry has received so much support. He says some of these agencies include the City, County, Taylor County Sheriff's Office, Perry Police Department, and external organizations including Second Harvest and Operation Blessing.
Hendry and Johnson said they hope someone will come in to get the mill up and running again.
I reached out to Georgia-Pacific. In a statement they said they have "accepted calls from companies who have expressed interest in discussing the purchase of the Foley facility. Georgia-Pacific will develop a plan to respond further to those companies. Details on the content of the response and timeline have not been officially shared with any party or company outside of Georgia-Pacific."
They also added that they have "mailed severance payment letters to former employees. Most of the letters have been signed and returned by former employees, and the company is processing the payments."
Now setting into this new life, for Hendry, it's about taking it day-by-day. "I try not to let the stress of that take me down," said Hendry.
CareerSource North Florida say they are ramping up services in the New Year. You can drop by their office any time between 9am and 4pm Monday through Friday. More information and links to their services can be found below.
GP/Hurricane Response webpage: https://careersourcenorthflorida.com/idalia-foley-rapid-response/ [careersourcenorthflorida.com]