LITTLEFIELD, TX (KCBD) - Concerned citizens gathered at the Hillcrest Funeral Home on Sunday afternoon in Littlefield to host a prayer service for about 350 employees of the American Cotton Growers Denim Mill who will lose their jobs January 6, 2015.
ACG announced the closing of the mill on Friday, and Shawna Wagley, co-owner of Hillcrest Funeral Home, said they planned the prayer and worship gathering for the community shortly after.
"I've seen that support when people come together when they've lost a loved one, lost somebody, and a job is a loss," Wagley said. "It's very much a loss, it's a death of a career and the death of your income."
Wagley and other business owners in Littlefield hope the mill employees will not have to move to find jobs in other towns.
"We are worried about the outcome of what's going to happen, and from this point forward just to give encouragement," she said. "That's a big deal to lose your friends and to lose the people you've grown up with that have been employed there 17, 18 years or longer."
Ernest Martinez says he worked alongside many of these mill employees impacted during his 13 years at the mill.
"I feel bad because we were always told that we were the best denim mill in the country," he said, "and to shut our doors down, either we weren't, or they were just telling us something we wanted to hear."
He quit his job in August, when he said 69 of his coworkers were laid off and salaries were slashed.
"I believe we've all seen it coming," he said, "and I believe that the management knew this was coming."
Months before that round of layoffs, 22 people were fired.
Martinez said it was not easy to find another job, and he went without work for over a month before he found employment in Lubbock.
"I mean, I'm doing alright, but I understand that for a lot of these people, that's all they know is the denim mill," he said. "They've been out there 30-something years, and it's going to be hard to find something else."
Andy Melton is the pastor of Trinity Church in Littlefield and said he has seen these layoffs affect many of his church members.
"This isn't our first time to see this on our community," he said. "We all come together when we have times of need. This community has been through a lot together, especially over the past year with other things that have happened."
Which is why these Littlefield citizens joined together in prayer: to keep their town together as one of its biggest employers shuts down.
"We will rally around each other together" Melton said. "We'll encourage each other and we'll look forward to a positive ending in all of this."
The denim mill employees are still waiting for any word about possible severance pay.
In the meantime, several Littlefield churches are preparing to help out these citizens with basic necessities as much as they can before January.
Melton said anyone who would like to donate to help these employees can contact Wagley at Hillcrest Funeral Home at 385-0347.