ABBEVILLE – Tammy Evans has a better idea of where to turn for help with food, utilities and other necessities thanks to Brian Duhaime, a Troy University community counseling graduate student from Enterprise. Duhaime and his Dothan Campus classmates recently spent two days at the WestPoint Stevens plant in Abbeville offering advice and referrals to workers, who will be displaced when the plant closes its doors later this year.
Students in TROY’s crisis response management and vocational counseling classes met one-on-one with the textile workers to discuss their options. The students volunteered in conjunction with the Henry County Family Service Center and Living Waters, a non-profit, faith-based counseling provider.
TROY school counseling major Lisa Tolar of Dothan helped to organize the effort.
“We are here to let people know about the resources available and that the community wants to help,” Tolar said. “We want them to know they are not alone.”
Evans was grateful for the free advice. Her husband, Fred, will also lose his job. They have two small children at home.
“This really helped me,” Evans said. “We are having trouble with our bills. It is sending me in the right direction.”
School counseling major Ruthie Boykin of Ozark said the opportunity to use what she has learned in the classroom will make her a better counselor.
“I am learning how to listen,” Boykin emphasized.
Troy University offers master’s degrees in counseling and psychology with concentrations in community, corrections, rehabilitation, substance abuse and school counseling, in addition to school psychometry. Education specialist degrees in school counseling and school psychology are also available.
Over a two-day period, the students met with 150 employees of the mill. Dr. Ginger Mayer, interim counseling and psychology department chair, said volunteering helps the future counselors develop empathy, while they refine their intake and referral skills.
“They have done a really good job.” Mayer said. “The people here have been complementing us on the caring attitude and the professionalism of our students.”
As the roar of spinning machines drifted into the conference room, community counseling major Beth Gunter of Daleville offered hope to Verna Brown, a 34-year veteran of the plant.
“It is very helpful,” Brown said. “It is encouraging that somebody cares about what is going on. It makes you feel a little better.”