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In Ellicott City, recovery turned to those who lost jobs after flooding

Donna Robbins, human resources director at Turf Valley Resort, left, interviews Christa Giangrandi, who was the manager at Diva's Boutique in Ellicott City, one of the businesses on historic Main Street that was devastated by the flood. Area businesses participated in a job fair at the Ellicott City 50+ Center to help those who lost their jobs due to the Ellicott City flood to find other work.
Donna Robbins, human resources director at Turf Valley Resort, left, interviews Christa Giangrandi, who was the manager at Diva's Boutique in Ellicott City, one of the businesses on historic Main Street that was devastated by the flood. Area businesses participated in a job fair at the Ellicott City 50+ Center to help those who lost their jobs due to the Ellicott City flood to find other work. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

As workers continued to clean up Ellicott City, a community job fair Monday offered a step forward for those whose livelihoods were washed away in the devastating flood.

Tommie Poe worked at Tea on the Tiber on Main Street. The Gwynn Oak woman has been out of work since the July 30 flood.

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Since then, she said, "it's been kind of, 'What am I going to do today?'"

On Monday, Poe, 60, stopped by tables at the Howard County Disaster Assistance Center on Frederick Road, where employers were seeking to hire those who lost jobs in the flood.

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Poe wants a temporary job as a server until the tea room can reopen — but she doesn't know when that will be.

"I'm optimistic," Poe said. "If it will be, it will be."

Howard County Councilman Jon Weinstein, who represents Ellicott City, said some 90 Main Street businesses have been affected by the storm.

About 60 job seekers and 65 businesses took part in Monday's fair. In addition to meeting potential employers, people could receive resume help and look for jobs online.

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Representatives of Turf Valley Resorts, located eight miles from the damaged downtown, came seeking applicants for temporary and full-time positions including restaurant manager, line cook and groundskeeper.

Ellicott City's historic district is "in our backyard," said Donna Robbins, human resources director for Turf Valley. "It's an advantage to us to be able to help out and give back."

Stanford Grill in Columbia and Buffalo Wild Wings sought food service workers, hoping to employ those who worked at various downtown eateries.

The service industry has been active in trying to place Ellicott City workers. More than 100 Baltimore area restaurants, bars, catering services and others have posted openings in the Facebook group "Keep Ellicott City Working."

John Argentino came to the fair to hire six to eight servers and line cooks for Gertrude's restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art. He said he hoped the job fair could help fill openings for the fall season.

"We feel Ellicott City is part of our community," Argentino said. "We figured we'd come out and see what happens."

Some businesses offered other means of support. Success in Style, a clothing shop in Savage, offered appointments to be fitted for free dress clothes.

"I'm here to help anyone who's looking for a job," said Marie Jennings, the shop's social media director.

Jacqueline Scott, deputy director for the Howard County Department of Community Resources and Services, said the outpouring of support for displaced workers has been tremendous.

By 2 p.m. the job fair site transitioned back to its role as the disaster assistance center. Phyllis Madachy, community resources and services director for the county, more than 50 businesses and 100 individuals or families had sought help.

Visitors to the center can apply for business recovery loans or work with agencies to replace vital records such as birth certificates or Social Security cards.

"It's been set up for big, long-term issues and short-term responses," Madachy said.

Many affected by the flood returned to the historic district to continue cleanup work. An estimated 240 homeowners, renters, business owners and helpers wearing rubber boots and gloves and carrying trash bags went to St. Peter's Episcopal Church In Ellicott City to be transported to Main Street.

All-terrain vehicles and three vans carried them downtown, according to John Marshall, a bureau chief for Howard County Recreation and Parks, which organized the shuttle.

Some sections of Main Street remained taped off.

"It's all about safety down there," Marshall said.

The next day for access to the downtown has not been scheduled, he said. People seeking information about cleanup efforts and assistance should call 410-313-2900 or go to howardcountymd.gov/ECStrong-Recovery-Resources.

Terry Chaconas, a volunteer with the nonprofit Ellicott City Partnership, said the group has raised more than $200,000 toward a $500,000 goal for those affected by flood.

Among those donations were cleaning supplies. Chaconas stood near a 24-foot truck filled with dust masks, shovels and cleaning fluids.

"The community answered our call," Chaconas said. "We filled the truck and we went to where the people are."

Baltimore Sun reporter Colin Campbell contributed to this article.

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