CAPE ELIZABETH — A boiler explosion at the Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill last November literally shook the community of Lincoln and its population of fewer than 3,000.
No one was killed, but the company laid off 200 workers the following month.
Lincoln Paper later revealed that those layoffs were also due in part to the loss of a major customer to an Indonesian paper manufacturer.
Now, some local church parishes are doing their part to help their neighbors to the north.
St. Bartholomew Church at 8 Two Lights Road will host a benefit dinner and silent auction on Friday, March 28, at 6 p.m. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased by calling the parish office at 799-5528. All proceeds will benefit the mill workers and their families.
“I was thinking how devastating something like that would be, 200 people laid off in a small community like Lincoln,” said Monsignor Michael Henchal, who helped spearhead the benefit. “That’s a disaster that affects everybody. And it’s not an earthquake 10,000 miles away, it’s something really local.”
Silent auction items will include gift certificates to local restaurants and golf courses, stays at hotels including the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, handmade jewelry, an autographed Boston Red Sox baseball and more.
The benefit was organized by the Social Justice and Catholic Service Committee of Cluster 22, which includes St. Bartholomew Parish, St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Scarborough, and St. John and Holy Cross Parish in South Portland.
A delegation of individuals affected by the layoffs is expected to attend.
The Lincoln Paper mill workers received good news in January, when it was announced that the federal government had granted them eligibility for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides job training and income support for individuals whose jobs have been lost due to foreign competition.
But for many former employees of Lincoln Paper, it’s still been a long and difficult winter, and the future is full of uncertainties.
“It’s not like there’s other employment just around the block they can go pick up,” Henchal said. “There’s a limited number of jobs there.
“So I just thought, we’ve got to do something. Who knows how huge our contribution will be, but whatever we can do, we’re going to do it.”
To donate to the silent auction or mill worker fund, contact Kathy Williamson, pastoral life coordinator for the parishes, at 799-5528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.