(Lana Jones/WBZ NewsRadio 1030)
WORCESTER (WBZ-AM) -- About two dozen employers set up recruitment stations at a job fair at the Centro Community Center Wednesday for hundreds of Puerto Ricans who evacuated after Hurricane Maria devastated their island.
The event was sponsored by Worcester's Chamber of Commerce to help the many evacuees who have settled in the city at least temporarily.
Three hundred adults have registered with Centro Community Center, and 270 Puerto Rican kids have registered in Worcester's public schools.
Centro's Roberto Diaz told WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones he was surprised by the outpouring of support from local businesses.
"Here's all these businesses," Diaz said. "We were set for 19, but pulled out three or four more tables. I don't know the final count, but I can't believe this many people have showed up."
Gilbert, who filled out an application with an events company, said he and his wife said they are looking for just about anything.
"We left everything that we have, we're just trying to do something better now," he said. "Someday, yes, I will come back, but for now I'm trying to just do something better that we can not do over there."
Rohan Brewster of the Worcester Fire Department had a table at the fair, to let evacuees know they've got jobs for those who plan to make Worcester their home.
"We're just trying to put the information out that the test is coming up, so we can have a good pool to work from when we have a new recruit class," he said.
Molly Sneesby of Riverside Community Care said she is looking to fill a number of jobs statewide.
"Mental health counselors, residential councilors, we have some administrative work," she said. "Really wide variety of positions."
Sneesby said she's "absolutely" seeing qualified candidates at the fair.
UMass and Worcester State were also on hand, offering language programs and advice on updating skills and licenses.
Many of the employers were offering jobs that require quite an investment--a year's residency, or a longer training period. But Diaz said there's no telling how long they will stay.
"You have people that maybe don't have as many skills as others, but it's a mixed batch of everything," Diaz said. "Some people have given up their stuff back in Puerto Rico, so it's like, they really are starting over. Going back may not be an option for some of them."
"However, some of them are doing that," Diaz added. "They're saying, you know, maybe in a couple of years, my neighborhood will be maybe as normal. We know that Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans took them ten years to just kind of be, not back to what it was, but close. We know this is for the long haul, and some people are going to plant roots in Worcester."
WBZ NewsRadio 1030's Lana Jones reports