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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sheltered workshop gets comfy with $108,000 federal grant

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Oregon County Sheltered Workshop financial manager Darrell Strain shows off completed bundles of shredded paper and rags ready for shipment.
Besides offering jobs and dignity to 16 handicapped residents, the Oregon County Sheltered Workshop in Alton now has a more comfortable building for the workers as they sort donated items, bale rags and shred paper.

With help from a $108,300 federal grant, the nonprofit completed work last year at its facility on Highway 160 in Alton.

Federal stimulus funds helped pay for new geothermal heating and air-conditioning and foam insulation in the former Stubblefield Implement building, built in 1973.

The metal building, which originally housed John Deere farm machinery, was added on to in 1993 and 2005, although it had not been updated since the sheltered workshop moved in three years ago.

Since the energy upgrades were added, the sheltered workshop has cut its utility bills by about 50 percent monthly.

The workshop had to match 25 percent of the grant, about $36,000, which it borrowed and will pay back from its utility savings.

"The old portion only had wood heat," Darrell Strain, the workshop's financial director, said Thursday, Aug. 4. "In the winter, you couldn't get it warm enough in there to be comfortable working."

The workers use the room for sorting and processing recycled clothing, paper, books and household goods.

Most of the items are donated by residents, leftover from yard sales or factory seconds.

Strain said the workshop's thrift store operates on a thin margin, supported in part by a 10 cents per $100 assessed property valuation tax.

The workshop, voted into existence in 1987, "gives purpose and dignity to its workers," Strain said.

Not only does it provide the workers with income, it gives their lives meaning, he said.

"It's important for this area," Strain said of the workshop, as most of the workers' income is spent in Oregon County.

The workshop accepts good used furniture, clothing, and household items for the thrift store. It also accepts cardboard, newspaper and hardcover books to shred and bale.

When workers have shredded and baled 20 tons, it is shipped. In June, the nonprofit workshop shipped more than 40,000 pounds of shredded paper.

The workshop also employs two Experience Works workers and three support staff.

Hours for the thrift store are 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Friday.

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