OLYMPIA - About 50 vendors and 300 people attended the second Economic Survival Fair, a four-hour event Saturday that highlighted South Sound social services to those needing assistance in a tough economy.
This year’s fair was held at The Olympia Center downtown and again was organized by the Volunteer Center of Lewis, Mason and Thurston Counties. About 300 people also attended last year’s fair, held at Olympia High School, but 10 to 12 more vendors took part this year, Executive Director Sara Ballard said Saturday.
Vendors included service providers such as The United Way and The Other Bank. Although some vendors thought fewer people attended this year’s fair, Family Education & Support Services program coordinator Marc Daigneault said many people came to his booth planning to share the information with someone else.
“Information can still get out to the community,” he said.
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Vendor booths lined the hallways on two floors of the center, and free lunches and haircuts were offered. New to the fair this year was a free income tax preparation site, organized by the Thurston County Asset-Building Coalition. By about 1 p.m., 20 people had used the tax services and received about $30,000 in refunds, site coordinator Blake Marzloff said.
Among those who used the tax service were Grace and Scott Campbell of Olympia. Grace Campbell, 34, said the couple have taken advantage of free tax services before, but usually at one of the libraries in Olympia, Tumwater or Lacey. She said she was impressed with the fair.
“They are serving a lot of different economic strata, and that’s a good thing,” she said.
The Campbells have two children, and Grace Campbell is expecting a third child, she said. Her husband lost his job working on yacht interiors in Tacoma before Christmas and has been looking for work, she said.
Scott Campbell, 35, is among 10,000 people in the county without a job, according to state Employment Security Department data released in December. The county’s jobless rate is 7.6 percent. That figure is lower than in many other Western Washington counties, but it is well above the 6 percent unemployment rate reported in December 2008, ESD data show.
Grace acknowledged that the job market is grim, but she’d much rather be in a supportive community such as Olympia than her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., she said.
“I’ll take the lack of amenities for a more progressive town,” she said.
Rolf Boone: 360-754-5403
to learn More
• For more information about the Volunteer Center, call 360-741-2622.
• For more information about free income tax preparation sites, go to the Thurston County Asset-Building Coalition Web site at www.thurstonabc.org and click “free tax help.”