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Community shows love, appreciation as last shifts leave NC paper mill

<i>WLOS</i><br/>Quitting time at Pactiv Evergreen's paper mill in Canton came with more meaning Thursday
Quitting time at Pactiv Evergreen's paper mill in Canton came with more meaning Thursday

By Rex Hodge

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    CANTON, North Carolina (WLOS) — The community turned out Thursday to show their appreciation as the final shifts reported for work at Pactiv Evergreen’s paper mill in Canton.

Quitting time came with more meaning. After more than a century, the mill is closing up shop. And on Thursday afternoon, the last major shifts left the chute.

Community shows love, appreciation as last shifts leave Canton paper mill

The mill is a paper packaging factory, and, after 115 years of operation, it was a full package of appreciation from the Canton community and workers past and present.

“You look at all the stuff up here, all the people that showed up, that’s a testament of the town and the mill and the people — not just the workers but the whole community,” said mill worker Will Warren, who is looking for another job.

“We’re expecting another one, so we’re planning on staying here in town,” said his expectant wife, Briana Warren.

Families have decades of connections to the mill — like Jessalyn Rathbone, whose uncle has worked at the mill for 21 years.

“We don’t know what to do to help, but we just love our town,” she said.

“I feel sad. This is the end,” Bruce Lovelace said, finishing 51 years at the plant.

As he left for the last time, he displayed his original employee paperwork.

“Well, I’ve got a little farm to keep me busy, I guess,” Lovelace said.

Mayor Zeb Smathers was on hand to give the workers, their predecessors and their families a hand.

“That is the very least we could do to say thank you for all the stresses, just what these workers have had to go through here in town the last three months dealing with the sudden announcement of closures and issues with insurance and all the back and forth,” he said.

As the town moves forward, faith will play a big role.

“It’s sort of sad going into a town and seeing a mill that’s been shut down. There’s always fears of it being vandalized and there’s fears of what could happen if it’s not used for manufacturing. So, I don’t know. I just trust the leaders to make a good decision on what to do,” Rock Face Baptist Church Pastor Donnie Henson said.

The whistle may be silent, but the clarion call for moving on is grit and grace.

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