NEWARK — The Worcester County Developmental Center has always been about self-sufficiency in their operations as well as their training programs. So in designing the new center, which opened this week, everyone involved wanted to make sure they could not only grow, but move toward a more self-sustaining model and train their clients to do the same.
The WCDC is a non-profit organization that trains the mentally and developmentally disabled for employment either outside or inside the facility. Their clients, many of whom are Cedar Chapel Special School graduates, learn skills appropriate to their personal ability and take jobs according to their wishes.
When the old school building that housed the program burned down three years ago, the WCDC was already in the process of designing another facility and although the fire was a severe blow to the program, if there was a bright side it’s that the project was fast tracked and the building that opened was in every way superior to the one that burned.
Many of the WCDC clients work in the facility itself, tending the plants in the greenhouse or doing piecework in the large workroom. Before the fire the WCDC was known almost exclusively for growing and selling poinsettias for Christmas. The new and improved greenhouse will allow them to expand their greenhouse business and run it all year.
Similarly, the piecework they used to be able to accept was often limited by space but with the now larger facility the WCDC is able to take on bigger contracts, which means more employment for their clients.
“They love getting their paychecks,” said executive director June Walker.
The clients are not only paid for their work, but those who are trained to do so often accumulate enough skills to work elsewhere. During the last three years, the WCDC clients prepared lunches both for their fellows and occasionally for sale using the kitchen in Most Blessed Sacrament School, in Berlin. The new facility has a substantial kitchen where clients won’t only make the meals for their fellows, but serve food at the functions the WCDC rents out their space for.
The meeting space is one of the most significant upgrades in the new facility. By having it available, the WCDC can earn additional funds to support operations. Business and social groups will be able to host large lunch meetings and even small banquets in one of the facilities three meeting rooms. The rooms are divided and can be combined into a very large meeting room for both banquets and conference-style events.
Possibly the most significant addition to the new facility, though, is the laundry room. Much like the kitchen it will serve two purposes. The first will be as a training opportunity for interested clients who can then take their skills to the hotels in Ocean City and find employment in the laundry rooms there. The second is that the WCDC will be able to accept laundry contracts and further employ their clients.
“The hope is that people who come here and are trained can go out into the community,” said board of directors president Mike Megary.
The expanded space and opportunities are easily the most important aspect of the new building. Not only did they have to turn away many clients in their older, smaller facility they also had many whose full range of potential weren’t being met because of limited opportunities.
The new facility gives the WCDC the ability to serve 200 clients, as opposed to the 80 they were able to serve beforehand.
“It’s a bigger place with bigger opportunities,” said Walker.