Spartanburg Herald Journal: US Rep. Trey Gowdy tours jobs program helping people with disabilities, special needs
US Rep. Trey Gowdy tours jobs program helping people with disabilities, special needs
Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 at 6:46 p.m.
U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, center, talks with Anthony Rogers, a worker at WorkAbility, an affiliate of the Charles Lea Center on Tuesday during a tour. At left is Gowdy's field representative, Missy House, and at right is Vanessa Pressley, plant manager.
INMAN — Employees at Workability shook hands with U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy Tuesday and told him about their jobs.
Workability, an affiliate of the Charles Lea Center, provides jobs and job training for people with disabilities and special needs. Jobs include assembly work, distribution, storage, and warehousing for many small and large businesses. There are more than 300 employees. Many do their jobs inside the facility, while others work in the community.
Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, said after a tour of the 55,000 square-foot building that he has driven by many times but has never been inside.
“You can drive by a place and wonder what happens behind the doors, but until you experience it, you have no idea,” he said. “To see people's eyes light up as they describe what they are doing, it reaffirms to me: Whether you are building a law or building a belt, there is inherit value in work.”
The employees at Workability work about six hours, five days a week, said Lois Durrah, the Charles Lea Center's senior director of community services. The employees get paid every two weeks.
Durrah said the employees take pride in knowing they make their own money and have responsibility.
“Just because you have a disability, does not mean you don't have something to contribute to the community,” she said. “Just as its important for me to work and have money, it's important for them.”
She said it's tremendous that Gowdy came by to tour the facility.
“We want our legislators to continue to realize that we are not here to house people with disabilities,” she said. “We are here to help people with disabilities gain the work skills that they are going to need to be contributors in society and be more independent.”
Some employees at Workability, which is located at 10390 Asheville Highway, inspect packaging Styrofoam that goes into boxes for Dish Network. Other employees assemble parts for golf carts.
Julie Meeks, 44 of Woodruff, is one of the employees who helps sew, assemble and package strapping belts the military uses to tie down cargo and other materials on tankers and aircraft. The strapping belts also are used to secure parachutes on military planes.
Gowdy shook Meeks' hand and offered a smile. “That is very important work. Congratulations,” he said.
Gerald Bernard, executive director of the Charles Lea Center, told Gowdy during the tour that Workability would like to upgrade their kitchen someday, and asked about the possibility of attaining additional grants to do so. Currently, the facility is funded by the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs, but private donors also contribute.
“The challenges they have here are probably not unique,” Gowdy said. “You exhaust your private sources, you exhaust your corporate sources, and at some level, you have to go to some function of government, state, local or federal, to see if there are grants available.
We have somebody whose job is to connect grant seekers with grant sources. We swapped some (business) cards and if we can help, we would love to do it,” Gowdy added.