Rural Missouri - May 2017 - 20
Above: From left, Lester Rackley, Ethan Thomason, Samues Ray, Gary Alexander and Rodney Robertson package bottles of Frank's RedHot sauce for a Springﬁeld business. Local industries support Web-Co while beneﬁtting from its service. Below: Daylton Moore unloads plastic bottles at the workshop's recycling center. Web-Co handles 710 tons of recycled materials every year.
by Jim McCarty | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sheltered workshops in Missouri receive a per diem for each employee from
the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. They also
rom the outside Web-Co Custom Industries looks like every other fac- can beneﬁt from Senate Bill 40 passed in 1971. This lets counties pass levees
tory in the Marshﬁeld industrial park. It's the people inside that make to support the workshops. There is no federal funding.
Web-Co must rely on income from the work it does for local industry to pay
this business unique in the town of 6,800. All 92 employees have been
certiﬁed as disabled by the state. Their conditions range from bad knees its overhead and $1 million annual payroll. According to the Missouri Associato blindness, brain injury and developmental disabilities. If the workers have tion of Sheltered Workshop Managers, a workshop's contract revenue typically
accounts for 70 to 80 percent of its income.
anything in common, it's a desire to join the workforce and earn a living.
Web-Co's funding also comes from every grant Mike can ﬁnd to apply
Web-Co is one of 91 sheltered workshops in Missouri that
together employ more than 6,000 disabled people. It also provides
for, including money from Webster Electric Cooperative's Foundation.
free transportation to its employees who typically can't drive.
Grants from the cooperative, which supplies power to Web-Co,
"Each one is independently doing something for their commuhave purchased recycling trailers and other equipment. The money
comes from Operation Round-Up, which lets members round up
nity," says Web-Co General Manager Mike Frazier. "If it wasn't for us
there would be nothing for these people."
their electric bills in order to fund community projects.
Mike and the nine supervisors also have to be creative in
Web-Co, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary May 17, began
order to ﬁnd tasks for all of the employees. "There's nobody we
with a small group concerned with the quality of life for the area's
can't use," he says. "There is a job for everyone."
disabled. At the time, the disabled had two options: Sit at home or
There's also a waiting list for employment that varies from
take part in programs that were 100 percent government subsidized.
20 to 30 people. In order to work at a sheltered workshop, an
Web-Co started with 15 people. It expanded to its present location
in 1998 and has been growing ever since. "People didn't know there were
employee must ﬁrst be certiﬁed as disabled by the state. From
this evaluation the staff learns about their capabilities and adapts their workdisabled in the community," Mike says. "Now they are working just like everyload to suit the individual.
one else. They are supporting themselves. They have dignity."
That can be challenging. Supervisors must watch for seizures, a common
It's a beehive of activity inside the 65,000-square-foot building. In one room,
workers package bars of soap inside plastic containers. Others, including three problem at the workshop. Some employees suffer from sensory overload so
workers who are legally blind, install rubber o-rings. It's a task that could be they can't handle too many colors. Pictures and jigs help simplify tasks.
Others ﬁnd their disability can be an asset at the workshop. Success stories
done by a machine, but industry has found humans do the job better.
Elsewhere, row after row of Frank's RedHot sauce await packaging for abound. Mike points to one employee who has a brain injury and a prosthetic
French's Food Co. in Springﬁeld. "There are 5,000 cases here now," Mike says. leg. "He can operate any machinery. His attention to detail is beyond what a
machine can do. If he sees a dot on a label, you and I won't be able to see it."
"You should have seen it with 50,000."
Another worker came to the workshop from high school unable to communiAnother cluster of workers patiently puts a large and a small bottle of Dead
Down Wind scent eliminator into a plastic sleeve, ready to ship to Wal-Mart. cate. After a short time, she began giving high ﬁves to fellow employees.
David Wise, who lives in Marshﬁeld, started working at the workshop in
They will do 80,000 packages before moving on to the next job.
Elsewhere several women are sewing magnets into Skeeter Beater camou- January after almost 10 years of unemployment. He once worked for NASA,
ﬂaged netting for Timco Industries, a St. Louis company. Others sew pieces for but suffered a skiing accident that led to severe arthritis in his knees. "I think
this is a great idea," he says of the workshop. "It gives people a chance to do
hammock chairs made by Stringer Outdoors in Republic.
Six more employees handle all of the recycling for Webster County. They something they normally wouldn't get to do. It sure beats sitting at home."
After 40 years, Web-Co is making a strong contribution to Webster County,
unload trailers full of recycled goods and also accept consumer electronics.
says Mike, who has been leading the workshop for
Glass collected at the site goes to Kansas City where
the past four years. "This is a God-led position. It's a
it is turned into insulation for Habitat for Humanblessing to be here. I surely do love this place. There
ity. Clothing heads to St. Louis where it is reused or
is no other place I can imagine working."
turned into new products.
Once most of the business was sewing, but times
For more information about Web-Co Custom Indushave changed. Mike says it is a constant battle to
tries, call 417-468-5890 or visit www.webcocustom.
keep the contracts coming and the workers busy. He
com. You can learn more about Missouri's other shelpoints to a bare spot on the concrete warehouse ﬂoor
tered workshops at www.moworkshops.org and
and admits, "I'm getting nervous. I don't like to see
RURAL MISSOURI | MAY 2017