BEAVER SPRINGS — Bill Mattern said he was overwhelmed with the amount of community support he and others like him received on Tuesday.
Mattern was one of 75 ex-Wood-Mode employees who came to the Middlecreek Area Community Center in Beaver Springs for its weekly food giveaway program. Sponsored by the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, the MACC gave priority to those individuals who lost their jobs with the Snyder County business on Monday.
"It's hard, but this feels great," said an emotional Mattern about the food giveaway. "This community showed more empathy and support than we got from Wood-Mode. I've never had to do this before. People I don't even know are patting me on the back and wishing me luck."
Mattern, 55, of McClure, worked at Wood-Mode as a stainer and maker of custom furniture for nearly 20 years. He enjoyed his job, and he planned to work there until he retired, so the news came as a big shock, he said.
"I feel kinda lost," he said. "I've never been fired, I've never lost a job, I've never been on unemployment in my life. It's all new."
Ange Keiser, program director and interim executive director at the MACC, said dozens of Wood-Mode employees called or showed up to register Tuesday morning. By the time food was distributed in the early afternoon, the final count was 75.
"Wood-mode was such a pillar in the community, and a large number of employees were employed there," said Keiser. "Our heart goes out to them, and we wanted to do our part in supporting them in their time of need. We are a community center, so we're here to serve the community."
Sign-ups start at 9 a.m., and food distribution is at 1:30 p.m. for as long as food is available every Tuesday. Wood-Mode employees will be given priority for at least a month. Those who sign up early are asked to come back at 1:30 p.m. since the center has other operations, said Keiser.
On Thursday evening, Sunbury Together will host its Takery event, with home-baked treats available for free at the gazebo in Cameron Park in Sunbury. Sunbury Together encourages people to bake goods for the event and others to come pick up goods for free. Rev. Ann Keeler Evans of Sunbury Together said those who are baking goods for the event — which is 4:30 to 6:30 — can bake extra with the additional foods going to the food bank.
The food distribution usually serves more than 400 people on a typical Tuesday, but Keiser expected many more in the coming weeks. Coincidentally, the center had extra food on Tuesday, she said.
"We have food, sunscreen, deodorant, four different kinds of baby food," she said. "We have oranges, apples, blueberries, strawberries, orange juice. Just a large assortment of items."
Robin Grove, 38, of McClure, worked at Wood-Mode for 19 years, the last three as a safety specialist. Her husband, Timothy Grove, 51, worked as a supervisor for 25 years. As a salaried employee, she has the potential to be called back this week for clean up work.
"It's early for us," Grove said. "It didn't hit us hard today, but next week it might."
The Groves have a son and a niece dependent on their income. She picked up meat, beans and fruit at the MACC on Tuesday.
"We live in an awesome community," she said. "We couldn't live in a better community. We are very blessed."
The MACC is located at 67 Elm St, Beaver Springs, and can be reached by calling 570-658-2276. Wood-Mode employees that bring proof of employment upon arrival will be prioritized in the coming weeks.
Jennifer Rager-Kay, of Selinsgrove, is working with the youth volunteers from Snyder County Justice League to organize a food drive for those affected by the closure. On Tuesday, they had been contacting local business and churches to be drop-off points for the drive.
She said the youth wanted to help, so this was an easy way for them to do so.
The following businesses are participating in the Snyder County Justice League’s non-perishable food drive: The R.E.C in Selinsgrove, Enlighten Salon Selinsgrove, Wicked Dog Grill Selinsgrove, 360 Fitness Selinsgrove and Susquehanna Valley Mall stores Hot Topic, Master Cuts and Spencer’s.
If any other businesses or organizations want to volunteer as a drop off location they can contact us via the Snyder County Justice League Facebook page.
Arthur's Pet Pantry in Lewisburg put out a message on Facebook for pet owners affected by the closure. Their monthly pet food distribution is from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 15, at 3200 Johnson Mill Road, Lewisburg. They plan to set up a temporary location in Snyder County.
'Fill in that gap'
A Community Clinic in Sunbury assists the uninsured population with access to high-quality health care through a network of volunteer physicians and services provided by four area hospitals. Patients are treated at the clinic and referred to the area hospitals if further testing is needed. The four area hospitals, Evangelical, Geisinger in Danville and Shamokin and UPMC in Sunbury, have donated a limited number of radiology and laboratory services for clinic patients.
"We fill in that gap for those who lose their job until they are able to get employment or new insurance. That's what we're here for," said medical assistant Deni Long.
Any employee from Wood-Mode from Snyder, Union, Northumberland or Montour counties who have no health insurance can come into the clinic for free service. They must be between the ages of 19 and 65, and the family income must be less than 300 percent of federal poverty guidelines.
"We are a regular family practice," Long said. "We do regular colds and runny noses, diabetes, cardiovascular. We have specialists that we work with at the local hospitals. We help with whatever medical needs they have. We can help with medications, and order name brand medication free of charge."
All family members in the household who earn wages must provide income verification in order to determine the eligibility of each member of the household. Verification would be last year's income tax return, Social Security Retirement, Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability, pension, retirement or unemployment award letter. Each individual must provide some form of photo identification.
A Community Clinic, 344 Market St., does not provide emergency care, family planning services, dental services or severe mental health services. The clinic's medical director is Dr. Charles Pagana. The office can be reached at 570-988-1270.
Sunbury Attorney Joel Wiest also offered complimentary legal services for those affected by the closure.
"I am appalled at the loss suffered by those affected by the Wood-Mode closing," said Wiest. "After much research, I'm not sure anything can be done legally, but if it can be done, I will do it free of charge. Anyone affected by this travesty can feel free to contact me and I will do by best to figure out a way to help. I'm sure I'm not the only one laying awake thinking of these folks. Our community truly needs to come together to support our neighbors at this time."
Wiest is a partner with Wiest Wiest-Benner & Rice Law, at 5 N. Second St. His office can be reached at 570-758-5027.