My name is Monique Stokes and I am a Special Education Process Coordinator at Laquey R-V School District in Missouri and a Board Member of the Pulaski County Sheltered Workshop. I wanted to ask you to please oppose the WIOA and TIME Act and any other legislation that would be detrimental to the continuation of Sheltered Workshops and similar work opportunities for our most disabled individuals. I am uniquely positioned to see how beneficial these work opportunities are for these very valuable members of our society.
I have been at the school in which I work for the past 27 years. In that time, I have seen many students successfully complete high school and move to meaning employment at the Sheltered Workshop. As a board member at the Workshop, I often go there to visit and see several of my kids (for they will always be my kids), and the smiles on their faces and the hugs I receive tell the whole story. Our Workshop has a woodshop area where employees refinish and create beautiful furniture, two greenhouses that provide fresh vegetables to many people and businesses in our area, and several contract with participating businesses including Fort Leonard Wood, which is also in Pulaski County. Our staff is continually looking for other job opportunities for our employees and the Workshop is an integral and vital part of our community.
Our employees are very happy to be working and the Sheltered Workshop gives them that opportunity, not only to work, but to be a contributing member of society. These are individual that we have tried in “competitive employment” and they were not successful. If the Workshop was no longer available, they would not have anywhere to go during the day and would be sitting at home. The Workshop also gives them opportunities to participate in a social group as I am also the Special Olympics coach for the Workshop and we participate in bowling, basketball, and track and field tournaments every year. The Workshop employees also have monthly parties for birthday’s and holiday parties for major holidays. These events also bring great joy to the employees and would not be available if these Workshops had to be shut down.
If we’re forced to pay minimum wage, we would not have enough funding to keep the Workshop open. They ARE being paid a fair wage for their ability level, which is carefully being documented by our workshop manager through detailed time studies.
If you have the opportunity, please visit a Sheltered Workshop and talk to the staff and employees about what they are experiencing in that setting. You are more than welcome to visit the Pulaski County Sheltered Workshop anytime that you like. You WILL leave with a smile on your face and you will have no doubt that these facilities are vital in the lives of the individuals that they serve. Thank you in advance for your help in continuing to secure the future of Sheltered Workshops in our nation.