Worker who took IP retirement relies on family, friends for support

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 31, 2004

NATCHEZ &045; As it became more and more apparent that International Paper’s Natchez mill would have to downsize, Natchez resident Christine Thompson decided to cut her losses.

After 24 years at the mill, the assistant operator of the finishing and shipping department, along with dozens of other employees, decided to accept the company’s offer of retirement months before the mill actually closed on July 31, 2003.

After working there for more than two decades, seeing the mill downsize on the way to its eventual closing was hard emotionally for Thompson. In addition to being her financial mainstay, the mill was where many of her friends worked.

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Not only that, but she won’t be able to draw retirement until she turns 50 next year.

But in her quiet voice, Thompson said she has been able to comfortably make ends meet with the help of her severance package and of her family.

&uot;My mother lives right across the street,&uot; Thompson said. &uot;They’ve given me moral, financial and spiritual support when I’ve needed it.&uot;

Thompson said she has also gotten plenty of support from her church, Zion Hill No. 1 Baptist Church.

After she accepted retirement, Thompson took a job at a candle booth at Natchez Mall, a job where she was able to see and catch up with other former IP employees.

A group of ex-employees still get together at Ryan’s for lunch regularly and keep in touch by telephone.

Thompson now works at Hudson’s Dirt Cheap at Tracetown Shopping Center and is considering going back to school to become a day care center director or to open a catering service.

And she continues to count her blessings &045; her new job, her IP severance and her family.

&uot;Given that,&uot; Thompson said, &uot;it wasn’t so bad.&uot;