In a last ditch effort to save the jobs of more than 500 furloughed workers at the Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. in Cumberland, union officials at the plant appealed last week to the public for donations to the plant. But company officials quickly rejected the possibility of a public bailout by saying they could not accept such donations.

The tire company in Western Maryland began furloughs last Friday of about 25 workers--the first of about 534 employes during the next three months.

When the furloughs are completed, the workforce will be down to 730 employes, company officials said. At the height of production, the Kelly workforce numbered more than 2,000.

The Cumberland plant, which doubles as the company headquarters, has been hard hit during the recession. The company is moving the front-farm and light-truck tire production operations to its Freeport, Ill., plant. A company spokesman said the Freeport plant is more cost-efficient due to its newer facilities and the lower cost of labor there.

The Cumberland plant will continue to produce medium-bias truck tires. A company spokesman said Cumberland workers would not be transferred because the Illinois plant is capable of handling the new capacity. Kelly-Springfield officials are working with the union to bring costs down to keep the remaining employes, the spokesman said.

Union local Vice President Clayton C. Oster had issued a statement last week calling upon workers, community residents, businesses, politicians and "anyone who has ties with Cumberland" to donate money to the company.

Oster said the money would have been used to "improve areas of the plant or pay for cost overhead" and possibly stave off some of the planned furloughs.