Out-of-work AM pier employees forced to face reality

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David Sork at the closed gate to the pier Sept. 22, now must reflect on his own job loss. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

They only have Hurricane Irma to blame.

Anna Maria City Pier employees, out of work since the city of Anna Maria declared the pier “destroyed,” are faced with a harsh reality.

General manager David Sork is now among the casualties. He announced Sept. 29 on Facebook that after 18 years on the job, he is without work. He wrote, “No pier, no job. Irma has been unkind.”

Sork had been guiding the closure, storing equipment and helping find resources for his employees when he learned he, too, is unemployed.

Some of the 35 full- and part-time employees who kept the City Pier Restaurant running are finding jobs at other restaurants, while others are finding new ways to make ends meet.

For two other pier employees, a startup business, cleaning homes and offices is in the making.

Louise Jones and Nadine Kollar banded together to stay busy and earn a living.

Their new cleaning business — Pierly Made to Clean Services — is their attempt to make ends meet after their former income at the pier washed away with the storm.

They also don’t have a pricing sheet, Kollar said. They’re trying to play it by ear, so price will vary by deep or light cleaning and how much work is to be done.

Kollar said she’s worked at the city pier for five years. Jones has worked there 14 years. It was the primary income for both women, Kollar said.

Just over a month ago, Hurricane Harvey hit Texas, causing widespread devastation. Florida was almost entirely missed, but a few outer bands did cause some local flash flooding.

And that put Kollar’s car in the shop.

Two weeks later, Irma came.

In Bradenton, Jones and Kollar were out of power for seven and 10 days respectively. The pair of them bounced around in friends’ houses until power was restored to their own residences.

But on Anna Maria Island, there was an even more devastating outcome for the women: although the majority of the island was spared damage, the pier was determined by the city to be totally destroyed, leaving the restaurant inoperable.

Kollar said it took her over a month to get her car back and now she’s left to pay her bills without her primary income.

Because she had auto coverage and no house damage, Kollar said, FEMA couldn’t help her. Jones received some money from the disaster agency for a tree that fell on her house, but neither qualifies for ongoing aid from the agency.

Kollar said she applied and was approved for unemployment benefits, but they won’t cover all her bills. Aside from cleaning, she said, she also refurbishes furniture.

Kollar said FEMA promised her paperwork for recovering lost wages, but she’s still awaiting the forms.

“We’re hoping that the cleaning business helps bring in a little bit of money,” she said.

Sork previously advised all employees to apply for benefits. And Roser Food Pantry, based at Roser Memorial Community Church, has offered to supply food basics to pier employees.

The pier employees have talked about getting together so the crew can catch up on what everyone is doing, she said, “but it hasn’t happened yet. Everyone’s so busy.”

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