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Cape Elizabeth church benefit for mill workers raises almost $15K

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Cape Elizabeth church benefit for mill workers raises almost $15K

CAPE ELIZABETH — A benefit dinner and silent auction last week at St. Bartholomew Church raised nearly $15,000 to support mill workers who were laid off last year by Lincoln Paper and Tissue in Penobscot County.

"I told my parishioners last Sunday that in the 17 years I've been at St. Bartholomew's, I was never so proud of them as that night," Monsignor Michael Henchal said. "A lot of times you do fundraisers for yourself, but this whole effort was for others. I was very moved by the generosity."

Lincoln Paper laid off 200 employees in December in the wake of a boiler explosion and the loss of a major customer to an Indonesian paper manufacturer.

Jamey House was one of them. Today, he's serving as a peer-support worker, helping his former colleagues find employment. Some of them have explored job training through the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which provides support for individuals who've lost their jobs due to foreign competition. Others have moved out of state in search of work.

House estimated less than 10 percent of those laid off have found full-time work. He said residents of Lincoln, a town of fewer than 3,000 people, welcome all the support they can get.

"To be honest, being at that dinner, the money they raised was great, but the fact that they did it meant so much more to us," said House, who was among a group of Lincoln residents who attended the benefit. "Just showing that people take care of each other when they're down and out, it was very welcoming."

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.

About 50 volunteers planned and worked the event. The Modern Woodmen of America, a fraternal order, made a $2,500 matching donation.

"The atmosphere was wonderful," said Kathy Williamson, pastoral life coordinator for Cluster 22, who helped organize the benefit. "We're very pleased just to be able to raise awareness of the needs of the people in Lincoln."

To support the laid-off mill workers and their families with food and fuel, contact the Lincoln Maine Federal Credit Union at 794-8623 and ask about giving to the Lincoln Regional Food Cupboard.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.