FULTON, Mo. — Callaway County Extended Employment (CCEE), located here, is a sheltered workshop.
The organization’s purpose/mission statement reads, “CCEE is a Callaway County based nonprofit organization providing employment and vocational training for qualified individuals with special needs.”
“We hire adults with disabilities and support them as they achieve their greatest potential in the workplace,” says Marla Mason, general manager of CCEE. “Many of our employees would not be able to hold a job anywhere other than a sheltered workshop.
“Businesses like ours allow individuals to gain meaningful employment, camaraderie with other employees and vocational training if they want to try to find employment elsewhere at a later time.
“There are very few places as uniquely diverse as a sheltered workshop where individuals with disabilities receive the accommodations they need to ensure success as they use the varying abilities they possess.”
One of the extended employment opportunities is for individuals to work in the laundry.
“The purpose/goal of the laundry is to provide opportunities for employment within the special needs community and provide quality industrial laundry service to the local community,” shares Brain Jones, laundry facility manager.
Besides the opportunities it provides for adults with disabilities, CCEE’s laundry is unique in that it started in 2020—just before the pandemic hit.
The laundry facility was developed with grant money from a local mid-Missouri family, shares Mason.
“Much of what we do is fueled by grant money in the sheltered workshop arena,” she adds.
“We started our laundry to diversify our business model and to increase our profile in the local community,” Jones says.
In preparation, CCEE talked to local businesses and some government agencies to gauge interest in the venture. Then, officials talked to and toured other sheltered workshops that had already gone down this path to determine how to proceed.
“The commercial laundry facility was to be a main stabilizing income for the workshop,” Mason says.
“It started strong, but when COVID-19 hit, we lost momentum as many people stopped using the hotels that we were supplying services for.”
Following that, several of the businesses in which the CCEE laundry had hoped to serve closed down, such as the local hospital.
“It was a hard time for everybody,” agrees Jones. “The hotels we had contracted with didn’t have people staying there. Our local hospital closed its doors.
“Other contracts we were in negotiations for simply fell apart due to lack of funding on their end as the economy made its downturn.”
CCEE leaned on its existing business and government programs to keep the laundry afloat during the turmoil.
CCEE’s laundry operation offers services to hospitality management clients (hotels, catering, etc.), government agencies and healthcare providers.
“These markets are of an appropriate consistency and volume of laundry to maximize our potential and assure quality of service,” Jones shares.
To provide that quality service, the laundry operates a single shift five days a week.
“This could change if demand increases,” Jones points out. “We have 30 employees and five staff at present. We are in the process of increasing our workforce in the wake of COVID-19 as well.”
In addition, he says CCEE’s laundry facilities are Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compliant for linen and laundry management and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant in its handling of laundry.
The organization’s laundry facility has three washers. One unit is rated for 61 pounds per load and the other two are rated for 132 pounds per load. Its three dryers can handle 132 pounds each.
“We have one rolling iron that will dry, iron and gatefold items as large as a king-size comforter,” says Jones.
“We soften/condition our water to make the detergents as effective as possible and chemically test the laundry on a routine basis to ensure the quality of the end product.”
He adds that the laundry uses a chemical injection system to automate the addition of chemicals to safeguard employees and keep every load consistent.
“We have a high-capacity surge water heater to maintain the hot water at CDC-specified temperatures for sanitation,” Jones adds.
For pickup and delivery, CCEE uses a hydraulic lift-equipped bus that has been adapted to this purpose.
“Our drivers are all trained to operate this vehicle and are class E licensed,” says Jones. “We can generally (assuming no excessive soil) pickup laundry in the morning and have it laundered, quality checked, sorted, folded, packaged and returned within 24 hours.”
CCEE is a service-minded organization, serving its employees and customers, including with its laundry operation.
“Every job we do at Callaway County Extended Employment is about serving businesses while providing steady, appropriate work for our employees with disabilities,” Mason says. “The reason we exist is our employees.”
Adults who work at CCEE have a range of disabilities, and the organization works to find the appropriate job, if possible, for each person.
“Some have developmental disabilities—that would mean disabilities diagnosed young in life,” says Mason. “Others have disabilities because of accidents or traumas. Others have mental illness-related disabilities or other illness-induced disabilities.
“That is a qualification for employment here. Each employee must go through vocational rehabilitation to be evaluated before hiring can take place.”
Once CCEE qualifies the individuals, it hires each one, and then it supports them beyond what other businesses would with the goal being to ensure their success, Mason says.
“Making our employees successful is our goal and we do it very well,” she adds.
“My job is to apply for grants and stabilize our business financially. To do that we also have fundraisers. We are a nonprofit 501(c)3.
“It really is a great job and every day I thank God for the opportunity to be here. I love my employees and I get great joy when I see the team doing their work with excellence, to the best of their ability.”
While CCEE is successful in providing work opportunities for adults with disabilities, it has challenges to overcome to make the laundry operation a successful, permanent opportunity.
“To this date, our laundry business has been very sporadic,” shares Jones. “We have seen very busy times when local hotels have failures of their onsite laundry facilities. During those periods we see many hundreds of pounds of laundry a day.
“We are exploring more business opportunities all the time. We would love to see this venture take off.”
Employees of ‘All Abilities’ Make Laundry Successful, Aug. 6, 2019
Laundry Seeks Diverse Workforce, Stronger Community Ties, Nov. 8, 2018
Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].