Finding An Opportunity
At 7:30 in the morning, Melissa Harris is starting her day. She stands outside her apartment with a few of her friends, waiting to catch the bus to work.
About 20 minutes later she arrives at Kingdom Projects, Inc., or KPI, in Fulton. It's where all the material from the city's recycling program is sorted and processed. A little after 8:00 a.m., work starts. Melissa is one of 140 physically or mentally handicapped employees at KPI.
"Each of them have a different personality, each of them have good days, each of them have bad days. You have to accept each one of them as an individual, and who they are, in order to help them with what they need to work at," said Melissa's supervisor, Arba Clayton. "Some of our employees tear pages out of books, and Melissa was doing that, but Melissa has more potential than just doing that...And this just seems to be something that she's kind of gotten into, it's a nice niche, and it's comfortable for her, she can giggle all day long, and she can talk all day long, and it's just a nice fit for her."
But, it is still a job.
"We try to steer people into the mindset of this is a serious situation as far as your work hours. This is when we open, and this is when you work," KPI Director Lon Little said.
There's no doubt the job means something to Melissa.
"I'm happy at Kingdom Projects. I'm glad I've been there, you know I'm proud of myself. I've been there 15 years. Oh my God, I'm so happy," Melissa said.
"These people are here for a reason, and for them to be able to go out and say I have a job and I get a paycheck is good for their self-esteem," Clayton said.
Clean-up starts around 2:00 p.m. in the afternoon, and the day's work at KPI is done at 2:30 p.m. Melissa's bus gets home about half past three, and when she gets back to her apartment, she's earned a moment to feel proud.
"It feels real good, when I get home, and kick my shoes off. It's just a hard day, and start tomorrow, a busy day again," Melissa said.
KPI recycles thousands of tons of material each year. The company gets funding from the state and from Callaway County. Still, KPI's Director says more than 80 percent of its income is from its contract work.