New Beginnings for a Local Workshop
After suffering major damage from a 2006 tornado, employees waded through six months of red tape before receiving state and federal aid to rebuild.
Now, employees are gearing up for a big change. For the last year and a half, employees at the Monroe Sheltered Workshop have rolled up to less-than-desireable surroundings.
"There hasn't been much space, and with that limited area we've had to move one job out when we move another one in," said director Connie Thurman.
William Walters started at the workshop seven years ago. In addition to suffering the damage at work, he lost his home to the 2006 tornadoes.
"It's been pretty tough around here," said Walters.
A year ago that damage lingered all around Monroe City. Buildings sat broken and empty, and, like the sheltered workshop, people were waiting for state and federal aid to rebuild.
"19 months later, here we are," said Thurman. "It's very exciting."
The old facility could only accomodate certain jobs and about 60 employees. The recycling division was even forced to relocate to nearby Honeywell.
"We had to adapt the building to fit our needs and even then it wasn't quite right," said Thurman.
The new home, which is nearing completion, has more than three times the space.
"We're really anxious to get out here," said supervisor Jeff Blackford.
As they move in, Thurman will have the space to hire almost 40 more people, taking their total to about 100.
"The new facility will let us take more jobs, be more diverse, and efficent," she said.
In addition to the massive workspaces, the complex will also have a thrift shop, office space, a larger space for employees to eat and relax on break, and lockers.
"It gives them something to look forward to when they come in to work," said Blackford.
Seeing co-workers wrap their hands around new challenges makes the long days worthwhile for Blackford.
"It's so gratifying," he said. "You take a chance on somebody for a job, not sure how they'll do, and before you know it they're one of the best people on the job."
Blackford and Thurman say they can't wait to bring in new business.
"I just hope we live up to the pride," said Thurman.
For William Walters, he says the new building will just make a great job that much better.
"I love working here," he said.
Thurman plans to move to the new location in early November. She says they're always looking for new jobs to take on.