Ministers prepared to offer assistance to families

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 24, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; The demise of International Paper’s Natchez mill will affect many more in the community than those 500-plus employees who will lose their jobs when the plant closes.

Area ministers say they are prepared to do their part as church leaders to assist as the Miss-Lou copes with a massive blow to the economy.

&uot;The first and obvious thing we will do is pray for those employees and their families in the coming weeks and into the near future,&uot; said the Rev. Gary Nunn, pastor of First Baptist Church in Vidalia, La.

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&uot;We will try to be as encouraging and uplifting as possible. We do have some members of our congregation who are employed there, but this will have a ripple effect. It will affect the entire community,&uot; Nunn said.

On the positive side, the area has a resilience that it has demonstrated in the past, he said. &uot;At this point, it looks bleak, but I think we’ll find a way to make it through this.&uot;

The Rev. James Earl Herndon, pastor at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church, also has some congregation members employed at the plant.

&uot;It will affect some of our members, including our choir director,&uot; Herndon said. &uot;I’m concerned about them and will minister to them the best that I can.&uot;

Still, the overall jolt to the economy will hurt many others, Herndon said. &uot;Really, everyone will be affected, but we can’t anticipate the worst. We don’t know what lies ahead. You just see your way through it. You have to keep the faith, and God will see us through it.&uot;

Remaining positive through a crisis is not always easy, but for Herndon there is no other way. &uot;I’m a positive, optimistic person. There’s always a bright sky behind the gray clouds.&uot;

Herndon said he realizes all the businesses in the area will feel the hurt. &uot;I just hope and pray some good will come from it. Something better may come along.&uot;

At First Assembly of God, the Rev. Doug Wright said he knows something of what a community goes through when a large plant closes.

International Paper recently closed a mill in his hometown, Camden, Ark. &uot;My parents still live there; so I heard about what was going on,&uot; he said.

The closure hurt, but another manufacturing company on the other side of town balanced the shutting down of the IP mill with new jobs created about the same time.

&uot;Natchez needs some good news like that,&uot; Wright said. &uot;This is a wonderful place to live, and we want our young people to be able to come back and find jobs. We want our young families to be able to make it.&uot;

The IP announcement was &uot;something we hoped wouldn’t happen,&uot; Wright said. &uot;We’ll be here for the people. We’ll preach Christ, offer comfort and encouragement to the people who have to look for new jobs to take care of their families.&uot;