Georgetown parishes lend a hand to workers affected by steel mill layoffs

GEORGETOWN — Two Georgetown Catholic churches are helping ease the suffering of people who have lost their jobs with Georgetown Steel Company LLC. The plant closed Oct. 20, leaving 500 workers unemployed.

On Dec. 21, parishioners of St. Mary and St. Cyprian will band together to raise money for the steel mill workers and all local workers who are unemployed.

“This is the first time we have done this,” said Deborah Thomas, secretary at St. Mary.

The fund-raiser will be a “celebrity roast” of Barbara Dumm, one of the members of the church.

“She is well known in Georgetown,” said Thomas. “She has a good personality, so they picked her. Different people throughout the community are going to get up and tell some of the funny stories they have had working with Barbara.”

So far about 120 tickets have been sold for the roast.

“This money is not just for steel mill workers,” Thomas said. “It is for people in the community who are without work. … They have exhausted all their other money to get by on.”

Local, state and regional companies are still trying to collect money owed to them by the mill, in order to pay their own bills. The legal struggle has also involved Steelworkers Union Local 7898.

“So far we haven’t really noticed any effects of the steel mill closing,” said Thomas. “It’s going to be a long-term thing. I think some people are waiting, thinking they may be able to reopen the mill. From my seat here, as the secretary, we haven’t had an enormous amount of calls. It’s pretty much the same as it usually is.”

The Knights of Columbus held their annual Thanksgiving Dinner for those in need on Nov. 27.

Across town at St. Cyprian Church, Sister Kathleen Driscoll has been putting the word out in the media that the church is continuing its outreach services.

“The close of the steel mill is a great, enormous blow to the community,” Sister Driscoll said. “If the mill does not reopen, the economic effect will be felt by services offered by the city, the school district and local businesses.”

Food and supplies are regularly distributed by church’s outreach center.

“Churches that have a good number of members who are steel mill workers have stepped forward to provide food and set up an account to assist with Christmas,” said Sister Driscoll. “At this point St. Cyprian has only seen five mill workers, and we were able to assist with a rent payment, a utility payment and three prescription payments. We feel the longer the mill is closed, the more serious the impact, and after Christmas we will see a greater number of workers seeking assistance.”