Staff and employees of the workshop celebrated having a bigger building to work in by giving out hot dogs, chips and cold drinks to anyone who stopped by.
For those who don't already know, the workshop hires both mentally and physically handicapped individuals so these people can still feel useful in the community.
"They are all handicapped in one respect or another," Shelia Brown, a staff person at the sheltered workshop, said. She said there are about 15 employees at the sheltered workshop.
Brown explained the sheltered workshop is mostly funded through tax money.
"We have what is called a SB 40 board and that is where the taxes are paid to. The sheltered workshop board is funded through the SB 40," Brown said.
Other funds come through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and a grant from Mo-Dot for employee transportation. All other money goes into a fund specifically for the workshop to maintain the building and pay employees.
"While we're not totally self-sufficient, we would like to think we're working in that direction; that we're doing our part in giving back what has been given to us," Brown said.
She said the workshop board went to the SB 40 board for funding to buy the new building. "But, Mr. Larson, who owned the building or (the building) is owned by the company -- I'm not sure how it works -- gave us such a buy (on the building) that we would have been irresponsible to have not purchased it, because we own two buildings in town. As soon as we sell those, we would have recouped most, if not all of what we (owe) here," Brown said.
The sheltered workshop used to be on 101 South Main Street in Alton. Brown said the workshop had two buildings and the employees had to walk across the street to get from one to another. She said it is now much simpler and much safer in their new location, which is now all in one large building.
"I would hazard a guess that (the size of the workspace in the new building) has more than doubled," Brown said.
"It's been a heck of a move, but it's a move in the right direction," Brown said.
According to Brown, the employees do a multitude of useful work for the community. The workshop offers a thrift shop full of gently used donated items and a recycling center for paper and clothes.
Brown said any documents and other types of paper are thoroughly shredded. "It's not just stripped shredded. It's also cross cut, so it's very fine mulch," Brown said. This type of shredding ensures security of sensitive information in documents. Brown said there are some businesses in Oregon County that use the recycling center at the sheltered workshop because of the way it shreds documents.
Documents are shredded along with every day stock paper (office, newspaper, book, magazine, cardboard and feed sacks). The shreds are then bailed for easy shipping.
Clothing is also recycled and bailed. Brown said any item that is recycled has to have at least 40,000 or more pounds of it, which is about a full truck load, before they can send it off.
"The clothing, the last two times we sold it was to a buyer in St. Louis, and when he gets it, it goes to third-world countries where they aren't concerned about fashion. They're concerned about, 'how am I going to clothe my children?' I think it's just wonderful," Brown said.
Shoes and belts are also recycled in the same way.
The sheltered workshop also buys and recycles aluminum cans.
Thrift store hours are Monday through Friday, unless there is a holiday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. "But we'll let anyone in at 8 a.m. for donations," Brown said. The employees work from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Brown said if anyone wants to make donations, it's best to come while the employees are still working so they can help unload items.
Employees at the sheltered workshop also do car detailing. "I mean, they do a fantastic job (at detailing)," Brown said.
Detailing for cars is $25. Larger vehicles, such as SUV and double-cab trucks, are $30.
She said the employees are very diligent in cleaning the vehicles that come in. "It's like cleaning in the extreme," Brown said. "If there are spots on the carpet, we don't have a carpet or upholstery cleaner, but if there are spots on the upholstery and the carpet they work at trying to get those out. They don't just vacuum it and leave it. They work at trying to get it out. They do a really fabulous job."
She said the employees are really dedicated to their work. "I tell you what, you could not ask for a better group of people to work with," Brown said about the employees at the sheltered workshop. "If everybody in the country had the work ethic that these kids have, it would blow you away. They live, eat and breathe work. They are so happy to have a place to go and thankful. They don't take it for granted. They are thankful. They appreciate that it is here, and they have a good time."