Rotary hears how workshop works

WEIRTON – The Hancock County Sheltered Workshop tries to provide its clients with a mix of vocational, life-skills training and social opportunities, director Michael Hagg told the Weirton Rotary Club on Wednesday.

Hagg told Rotarians the workshop currently serves about 90 mentally handicapped and developmentally disabled individuals, some of whom suffered accidents or illnesses that impacted their condition.

“Whether it’s from birth, accident or illness, these are the individuals we serve,” Hagg said, adding the workshop’s program is “tailored to the individual person.”

Hagg said the workshop program includes life-skills training, such as teaching clients how to manage money, cook or balance a checkbook, with an emphasis on helping them integrate into the community. He said clients will, for example, ring the bell for the Salvation Army at Christmas, send cards to American troops or do food drives for the Community Bread Basket and Salvation Army, and they also do trips to Pittsburgh Pirates games, dances, movie nights and even a regional bocci tournament.

In addition to cleaning contracts at area businesses and institutions, Hagg said the workshop operates a commercial laundry that reaches into Western Pennsylvania, Huntington and even Beckley.

He said the laundry competes on quality, not price.

“We could do things cheaper, but that’s not putting people to work,” he said, pointing out that to maximize efficiency would mean automating certain tasks “and then you’re putting people out of work.”

Hagg said the agency does community placements when it makes sense for the client.

“We work with businesses in the community, trying to get jobs for our clients,” he said.

Hagg said the workshop, which benefits from voter-approved levy funding, “is here to help people with disabilities get jobs, learn how to get jobs (and) provide a social function,” he said.

The club meets at noon each Wednesday. This month only, meetings are being held at Undo’s Restaurant.