Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Exterior of River’s Bend Health Care on Friday, June 21, 2019, in South Point. The facility abruptly closed Thursday, moving all its patients to other facilities, due to an inability to fulfill payroll obligations for its staff.

SOUTH POINT, Ohio - Jennifer Thomas, a certified nursing assistant at River's Bend Health Care, says when the company abruptly shut down June 20, she never thought she wouldn't get her final paycheck.

"We were first told we would get our final pay in a day or two, then we were told it would be between July 1-5, and now we are being told it could be July 10-15," Thomas said.

It could be even longer, according to Kelly Whitaker, public information officer with the Ohio Department of Commerce.

"The employer has 10 business days to pay employees from the last pay date," Whitaker explained.

Thomas says the last pay date was the day before the facility closed, June 20.

That would have been July 5, and the 70 or so former employees still have not been paid, Thomas said.

Whitaker says the commerce's Division of Industrial Compliance, Wage and Hour Bureau would then investigate complaints. If they are found to be valid, a letter would be sent to those who filed complaints and to the owner of the business, giving the employer an additional 10 business days from the date of the letter to pay the employees' wage due them.

However, there is no timetable on how long an investigation could take.

"If the owner fails to pay the employees following the investigation of a valid complaint and receipt of the letter, further action could be taken by the department and the matter could be turned over to the Ohio Attorney General's Office," Whitaker explained.

Thomas said the whole situation has caused lots of pain and hardship for her family.

"I have three children, and it's been hard for my family to pay bills," she said. "We have been able to pay some of our smaller bills, but not our rent, water or electric bill. Then there are the little things, like I wasn't able to take my kids to the fair."

Emily Ferguson, of Proctorville, Ohio, was a state-tested nurse's aide at River's Bend. This October would have been her third anniversary at the nursing home.

"The money for my final pay was going for my stepdaughter's birthday party and presents, but I wasn't able to do that," she said. "Thank God my mother-in-law is a saint and jumped in to make sure she had a good birthday."

Ferguson said she also thanks God for Tri-State Worship Center, located at 901 Solida Road in South Point, and Stacy Murray-Medcalf, coordinator with the God Factor Ministries Inc., which has organized a fundraiser dinner starting at 5 p.m. Friday, July 12, for the displaced workers.

"My husband, Minister Larry Medcalf, recently was a patient at River's Bend Health Care for over 30 days," Murray-Medcalf said. "He was discharged home approximately two weeks before the sudden closing. We received excellent care there from the social workers, therapists, doctors, nurses, patient care techs and remaining staff. They became a part of our lives, and when we heard of the sudden closing and the employees who would go without, we had to do something."

Murray-Medcalf said in early May, the community had come together to do a fundraiser for her and her husband after he lost his leg unexpectedly and was hospitalized for over 90 days, with three weeks spent in Morgantown, West Virginia.

"We knew how it felt to have a sudden, unexpected need," she said. "Larry said we have to help them."

She said they contacted Bishop Terry Wagner, pastor of Tri-State Worship Center, and discussed a Praise Fest to raise funds for the displaced workers.

"Sister Vickie Wagner got things together to offer a dinner to the family, and there will be food donations given to those staff in need following the Praise Fest," she said. "A few local restaurants have also helped with this event. Volunteers from the River's Bend staff, Tri-State Worship Center, Michael's Grace Place, First Baptist Burlington and Greater Love Temple are among many who have joined together in organizing this fundraiser."

Murray-Medcalf says they will serve the staff and their families dinner and ask for a donation of $10 a family for all others.

"At 6 p.m. we will have an evening of praise with local artists to include Voices of Greater Love, Jason Wray, Sonny Smith, Ashes to Embers and the Brotherhood Male Chorus of Christ Temple, Ashland, Kentucky," she said. "There will be an opportunity for donations to be made to help those in need. Following the service, there will be a food giveaway for the River's Bend staff. We are asking area churches, businesses and organizations to send donations to help as well. Several individuals and businesses have already committed to supporting this great effort."

Murray-Medcalf says many of the displaced workers are still trying to find employment.

"Many of these workers are struggling, and we want to help them," she said.

For more information or to make donations, call Murray-Medcalf at 740-646-3558.

Follow reporter Fred Pace at Facebook.com/FredPaceHD and via Twitter @FredPaceHD.


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