06/18/13 — Taking on new jobs at Wayne Opportunity Center

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Taking on new jobs at Wayne Opportunity Center

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on June 18, 2013 1:46 PM

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Jimmy Griffin uses a nail gun to staple together a pallet for AP Exhaust while working at Wayne Opportunity Center. The center has 92 clients and 48 staff members. The non-profit organization has contracts with local companies and gives special needs people a place to work and build skills.

After the city canceled Wayne Opportunity Center's recycling contract, the center re-evaluated its money-making options, and today believes it is on the brink of doing better than ever.

"The city said we don't want to hurt you, we want to help you, so how can we help you?" said John Chance, Wayne Opportunity Center executive director.

Chance said the city adopted a recycling program in which all recyclables are placed in the same container and sorted afterward.

"We just weren't set up for that," Chance said. "We don't have those kinds of resources."

After discussing possible options, Goldsboro purchased the center a $185,000 shredding truck so it could shred paper and cardboard for businesses and individuals.

The city pulled the recycling contract in May 2012 and provided money for the shredding truck in July 2012. But then Chance got sick and the purchase was delayed until September when he could return to work, resulting in the truck not being operational until December 2012.

Chance said it took until this month to build the opportunity center's business back to previous levels, and to offset the losses caused by the cancellation of the city's recycling contract.

He said he feels the shredding operation will eventually raise more money for the center than the recycling program, which has been scaled back to only those locations where WOC workers can pick up the recyclables already sorted.

"We went out and we methodically talked with folks," Chance said. "We knocked on doors and talked to people and it's starting to become a very good thing for us."

The center is currently the only business in Wayne County that provides a shredding program.

Before the program was up and running, Chance said the center did run into some financial trouble and had to rely on other projects such as furniture refurnishing and building wooden pallets for businesses and individuals.

"We actually had one individual order 2-inch by 2-inch by 4-foot wooden pallets so she could make furniture from them," Chance said. "I had never heard of that before and was wondering where she got the idea from. I went home and my wife was watching Home and Garden Television and they were talking about how to make wooden pallet furniture, so I got my answer. I'm hoping that we can see more individual orders like that as well."

To compound the difficulty caused by the city canceling the center's recycling program, three major partners of the center -- General Electric, Turkington and Goldsboro Mechanic Works -- also closed shop and created what Chance called the "perfect storm."

"Turkington actually re-opened as Baker Thermal Services," Chance said. "So now we're doing more business with them."

As the business faced financial trouble, the center continued to focus on mental health programs to provide services for the community. The center used to work with vocational rehab, and will again in July, but began working with Eastpointe -- the state's local mental health management care agency that can help disabled adults find work.

"Vocational rehab pays about $5,000 every time we place someone in a job, which is great," Chance said. "But with the economy being tough since 2008, it became tougher to place people in jobs so we weren't making that money."

Chance said that working with Eastpointe provides hourly reimbursement so the center doesn't have to rely on a set fund coming in and is reimbursed for how much their employees work.

Chance said 65 percent of the center's revenue comes from production while 35 percent comes from programs the center operates. To generate more revenue, Chance said, the center is focusing on re-growing its recycling program and continuing to grow the shredding program, as well as focusing on individual orders.

The shredding program costs $25 per pickup, and provides a $70 container for the items to be shredded for free.

The center makes $155 per ton of office paper it shreds, and $105 per ton of cardboard shredded.

"When you call on us, you're not only getting your items shredded," Chance said. "You're helping folks with disabilities earn a living."