What began as a prayer service has become a group set to rally to the community’s needs and offer continuing encouragement.
The Armor up campaign was orginally started when Whitney Gill decided to pull the community together for a Tuesday night prayer meeting the day Georgia Pacific announced plans to partially shutter its Crossett operations and lay off or transfer 553 employees.
Gill said there was such a great turnout that she decided it needed to be a weekly thing and now even representatives from Camden are joining in.
“They reached out and said they had been through this before and now they were going through it again and they wanted to be there for us,” Gill said.
In addition to other towns joining in on the prayer, Century Next Bank supported the group.
A news release issued by the bank last week said it had donated T-shirts to sell to raise money for Armor Up. Gill said between the bank’s $5,000 donation, T-shirt sales and the donation account on social media, Armor Up has raised approximately $4,000.
The details of the how money will be distributed is still being worked out. The goal, however, is to help support employees and families impacted by the shut down.
Gill said right now the group has an anonymous committee who will make the decision and an email account — email@example.com — set up to accept requests.
“Right now everyone still has their jobs, but we are working on this now so that we can help in some way when it’s needed,” Gill said.
The money will be given out on a first come, first serve basis as the requesta come in. Gill said the group didn’t want to set any restrictions on what they could assist with, because she has no idea how much money will be raised, but right now they are looking at helping with things like water bills and school supplies.
Gill said that the fundraising portion was just a small effort to help and that she did not want it to take away from the main focus of why the group got started, which was prayer.
“We are so grateful that Century Next decided to donate to help the community, and we want to raise as much money as we can to help, but we also want to make sure the main focus is prayer,” Gill said.
Armor Up meets at 6 p.m. every Tuesday at Centennial Park and each week is organized by a different church.
Gill said each week she contacts a different church to include a variety of preachers and any church willing to be involved can contact her at 870-364- 5644 or via Facebook messenger.
Gill said people have expressed concern about the event being a bash Georgia Pacific session because emotions are high, but she said it’s not that way at all.
Multiple people speak — even some who have been laid off by the mill — and everything about the event remains positive each week, she said.
Gill said that Donald Stafford, a salaried employee who recently lost his job, speaks every week and encourages others to stay positive even when it is difficult to do so.
Other employees from the mill have said that it is encouraging to know that the community is praying for them even if they can’t be there themselves.
Boyett Goodwin, a GP employee, said that prayer is always encouraging and even though this week was his first night to attend the weekly service he is glad that it is available. Goodwin said that though not all employees can be there every Tuesday night, the way their shift is set up, they would get the opportunity every two weeks or so to attend.
“We want you to join us on Tuesday nights, but if you can’t, you can always pray from anywhere,” Gill said.