When Hostess decided to shut down operations at all of its locations, many of the 18,000 long-time employees were left without a paycheck, and with no idea where to turn.
"We have given up," said former employee Theresa Brown on the day the company shut down Waterloo's Wonder Bread plant. "We've done our part. These people want to work. They don't want to be out of a job."
The estimated number of unemployed Hostess workers is 18,000 nationwide.
At least 85 of them live in the Cedar Valley. Many worked with the company for decades, and were just a few years out from retirement.
That's why the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber is holding a job fair Friday tailored to the needs of these employees.
Friday's job fair, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Waterloo Center for the Arts, will include representatives from 25 local companies searching for bakers, drivers and production workers.
The Chamber's Director of Business Services Brittany Jungck noted the Chamber happens to have some experience getting a large number of people back to work fast.
"Yes, unfortunately, we're becoming job fair professionals," said Jungck.
This summer, the Chamber hosted job fairs for laid-off BPI and PFG Best workers as well.
"We found some success with the PFG fair, especially because that was a very diverse group of workers," said Jungck.
The Chamber has the same hope for Hostess employees, but realize the circumstances are different.
"They're very tenured workers. A lot of them had worked there for, not only years, but some of them decades," said Jungck.
The people who worked at the Wonder Bread plant in have a very unique set of skills, which is why the Chamber designed a job fair with them in mind.
"It is a challenge," Jungck said. "It's a mixture of bakers and production workers, and also warehousing and drivers."
The fact that they came together in a matter of days shows the level of support available from the Cedar Valley business community, Jungck said.
"We're a community that pulls people up by their bootstraps," she said. "We reach a hand out and we know we can make good matches."
The Chamber is hoping to make Friday's job fair a fun, comfortable environment.
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