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New members appointed to sheltered workshop board

Thursday, January 26, 2006

OREGON COUNTY -- The Oregon County Sheltered Workshop Board of Directors met recently and voted to recommend the appointment of three members to the board by the Oregon County Commission.

The board recommended the re-appointments of Dana Roberts of Alton and Dorothy Ellis of Thayer and the new appointment of Mike McElmurry of Alton to replace long-time board member Bill Martin.

"Bill Martin has served on the workshop board since December 1986 and has done a great job," said Oregon County Presiding Commissioner Leo Warren.

This November will mark the 20th anniversary of the sheltered workshop.

The workshop is located in Alton and employs handicapped persons in the county.

Teralyn Hensley of Alton was instrumental for the workshop becoming a reality.

"We (she and her husband Gary) had a handicapped daughter. We were traveling to Poplar Bluff often to receive any type of services for her. In that process I became acquainted with George Sifford who was coordinator of the Region 8 Council that oversaw the needs of handicapped persons in an eight-county area, including Oregon County," Hensley said.

It was in the mid-1980s that Sifford asked Hensley to become the representative for the region from Oregon County, and she agreed.

"At that time we were one of only two or three counties in the region that did not have any type of local services for handicapped people," she said.

Sifford educated and gave Hensley information about Senate Bill 40 that would allow voters to pass a tax in the county to fund some type of employment opportunity for handicapped people in the county.

"I knew I was going to have to do something. My child was OK as long as she was going to high school here at home, but I didn't know what we would do when she finished school. I felt like my child was going to have to move or our whole family was going to have to move," Hensley said.

Hensley ran with the information Sifford gave her and spent the majority of 1986 campaigning for her cause across the county. "I tried to get my foot in every door. I spoke to every group and club I could. I started community meetings with question and answer sessions," she said.

Hensley said she was told by some it was a waste of her time, people were not going to vote for any more taxes. She said she was also told there was just no need for such a service in Oregon County.

In the fall of 1986 the Oregon County Commission, headed at that time by Hardin Franks, voted to place the tax issue on the Nov. 7 election ballot. The tax issue said that 10 cents of every $100 of assessed property would go toward the sheltered workshop. The issue passed 1,649 to 1,184. The issue passed in 13 of the county precincts, failed in two and tied in one.

At that time, two boards of directors were appointed, one to oversee the tax that was passed and one to oversee the sheltered workshop. On Nov. 24, 1986, the Oregon County Commission appointed the following persons from all over the county to the first Senate Bill 40 Board of Directors: Judy Haynes, Wallace Biffle, Susie Van Camp, Claude Malone, Ruthene Simpson, Cecil Brazeal, Dale Rogers, Ray Lee Caskey and Hensley.

The first Sheltered Workshop Board of Directors was organized Dec. 18, 1986. The commission also appointed those directors. They included, Al Callahan, Elton Botard, Druscilla Hyde, D. Mike McAdams, Rose Wisehart, Bill Martin, Alex Outlaw, Freda Davis and Gary Hensley.

"God blessed us that the tax issue passed the first time it was on the ballot. Mr. Sifford even told me to be prepared for it not to pass the first time it was on the ballot," Hensley said.

In 1987 the workshop operated on a $24,000 budget. "We had 14 or 15 employees that first year and Greg England was the first manager of the workshop," she said.

There have been as many as many as 23 employees at the workshop. Last year the tax generated $71,000 for operation of the facility.

Years later the two boards were consolidated into one board and that is how it operates today.

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