Skills Development Services (SDS) has partnered with Anchor Defense of Tullahoma to provide work experience for its members, according to SDS Day Coordinator Amelia Majors.
SDS provides services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
The primary focus of the agency is to help its members lead meaningful lives, support them as they make choices and help them to become participating, working members of the community, said Majors.
Partnerships, such as the one established with Anchor Defense, help fulfill the agency’s mission by providing job opportunities for the members of the organization, said Majors.
Anchor Defense produces military apparel and products made with peat moss that are used for cleaning spilled oil.
Currently, three members of SDS work at the company, and their primary responsibility is filling the bags with peat moss, said SDS Job Coach Cassandra Cogler.
Jamie Record, David Hicks and Scott Cone were employed about a month ago, she said.
“Jamie and Scott put the ‘socks’ on a tube and fill them with peat moss, and then place them in a pile,” said Cogler. “David keeps the machine filled with peat moss and keeps it running, so that the guys can get their production going.”
The bags filled with peat moss are then shipped to be used by the military for oil spills, said Cogler.
“Jamie, David and Scott work Monday through Friday,” Cogler said.
Hicks said he appreciates this career opportunity.
“The job is really good,” Hicks said. “I love it. I love the paychecks.”
Record echoed Hicks in saying he’s thankful and he enjoys the job.
All members have fun interacting with the rest of the employees of the company.
“Davis is really social,” Cogler said. “When he is on break, he will go and talk to everyone, even the people that work in the front building. He goes over there and just chitchats with them.”
SDS officials hope more companies will offer job opportunities to members of the organization.
For years, the state has had a requirement for employment and community participation, but in years past that requirement could only be fulfilled with work at the center, according to SDS Job Developer Henrietta Northcutt.
In order to continue receiving funds from the state, the necessary hours now must come from work outside the center.
About three years ago, the state began requiring agencies that support individuals with intellectual disabilities to close their workshops, which were previously set up at the facilities, in order to integrate the people they serve in their communities.
SDS was created in 1978 as a result of a merger between Coffee County Skills Living Center and Coffee County Skills, which focused on providing residential and day services to people with developmental disabilities. Since then, SDS has become one of the largest community-based agencies in Middle Tennessee.
The agency serves Coffee, Bedford and Lincoln counties. SDS is a nonprofit organization chartered by the State of Tennessee and governed by a board of directors serving on a volunteer basis.
The organization’s mission is to help individuals with developmental disabilities become and remain as independent as possible.
Elena Cawley can be reached by email at email@example.com.