Displaced Marie Callender's employees have options for help

Does the Red Cross or any other agency help people who lose their jobs due to a disaster such as the fire that destroyed Marie Callender's on Biddle Road?

— Tracy S., Medford

The fire that swept through Marie Callender's in the wee hours of Saturday morning delivered both an emotional shock and a financial jolt to the employees of the popular dinner house and pie shop.

We're told it was the first fire of any kind at any of the more than 40 J & A Food Service operations in Northern California and Southern Oregon.

Red Cross usually responds quickly when families need shelter in case of a fire or some other sudden disaster.

We talked to Ellen Eastman at the local Red Cross office, who said in such cases of a restaurant burning down, it doesn't have a distinct remedy. Instead, the agency typically refers people to ACCESS Inc. or the Salvation Army, whose resources are more in keeping with the specific needs.

Another resource, Eastman said, is the 211 system, a phone and Internet tool instituted a little over a year ago to help people find their way through a menu of social service options.

A helpful woman on the other end of the 211 line told us the service considers matters one bill at a time.

"We're not really a one-stop option for the loss of a job," said Rebecca, who declined to give her last name. "We usually look at things bill by bill."

While the 211 system has no clear mandate to deal with situations such as sudden job loss, our source told us a lot of people who have suddenly lost a job begin by obtaining food stamps.

"That's where a lot of people start," she said. "Because you can usually get them pretty quickly. Beyond that, each person's individualized need is specific to the situation."

The 211 system — providing information about food, rent, utilities, dental and legal help — is available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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