By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY - As the dust started to settle from the Sept. 7 announcement of the closing of Digital Domain, and the abrupt layoff of 280 of its employees, the St. Lucie County community has responded, reaching out to help the people affected.
"I love it here, I really do," said ex-employee Karen Carter, who moved here last year to be part of the company. "But if I have to move, I will. I'll go where the jobs are."
Workforce Solutions teamed up with community partners to hold information sessions for those affected by the layoffs at the Port St. Lucie Community Center on Sept. 13.
"We are pleased to be in a position to help the Digital Domain employees," said Odaly Victorio, media representative for Workforce Solutions.
Workforce Solutions is a private Florida corporation that helps potential employees and employers.
The employees were told on the morning of Sept. 7 that they no longer had jobs at the special effects and animation studio that opened its doors less than a year ago.
Less than a week later, they filled the halls of the community center. There, they were greeted by a number of community resources ready to answer their questions and offer advice.
"We are happy to supply the resources that these people need," said Ms. Victorio.
At the layoff outreach, there were representatives from insurance agencies to discuss COBRA benefits; real estate experts to explain how the ex-employees could talk to their mortgage lenders or leasing agents; financial planners to answer questions about employees' 401Ks and even representatives from the Department of Children and Families to explain the food stamp and other assistance programs.
Outside, after the outreach had begun, the Treasure Coast Food Bank set up a mobile pantry to allow residents to fill immediate food needs.
There were also county representatives from housing and veterans services on hand to offer advice.
Workforce Solutions mobilized quickly after receiving notification from the state on Monday about the layoffs.
"What makes this outreach a little different is that we didn't have all the contact information for all the employees," said Ms. Victorio. "But we have so many (representatives) stepping up to help, and we will continue to be a resource as well."
Meanwhile, Ms. Carter, with some information in hand, continued to talk with representatives, taking a moment here and there to hug former co-workers.
"Nothing prepares you for this, nothing," she said. "But now I have some direction. We'll just have to see."
For more information about Workforce Solutions, call (866) 482-4473 or go online to www.yourworkforcesolutions.com.