The Power of Productivity
Marcus is a young man with developmental disabilities. He is an employee at the north location of Empac, formerly
Sheltered Workshop, in Washington. When he first came to Empac almost five years ago, he was shy and introverted. While Marcus demonstrated a capacity to learn and perform quality work, he was not confident in his abilities. In January, a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling machine was purchased and installed in the plant. This machine does precision milling work on metal parts. Marcus is the only employee at Empac who was selected to operate this machine. Colleen Himmelberg, Executive Director of Empac Group, Inc., said that Marcus is very proud of "his machine and his work." When tours come through the building, Marcus enthusiastically shows off his skills and the intricacies of the milling operation from the actual staging of the parts to the quality testing he performs as the machine completes its run.
Empac Group, Inc. is the result of the 2013 merger of Sheltered Workshop in Washington and Sheltered Industries of the Meramec Valley in Sullivan that took place in 2013. By merging and working together, Empac Group provides a comprehensive, county-wide approach to employment for individuals with developmental disabilities. The vision for increased capacity, will be achieved by "establishing effective partnerships throughout Franklin County, creating awareness about Empac services, forging productive business partnerships, and serving as an overall community resource." (Empac brochure, Our Vision).
Empac provides custom manufacturing, assembly and packaging solutions to industry partners in the region, such as Parker Hannifin, Plaze, ATI, Henniges, Clemco and many others. There are currently 230 employees at the two locations, with over 100 on a waiting list. Employees may be facility-based and/or community-based. Facility-based employees work inside the plants at Washington and Sullivan; community-based employees work for other companies or businesses doing janitorial work, lawn care, stocking inventory, etc. A group of Empac employees even take care of the rest area located on I-44 between St. Clair and Sullivan. As employees develop skills, work habits and have a desire, they have opportunities to move into higher skilled positions from facility-based to competitive community-based positions.
"I love seeing our employees grow more confident and develop job skills. We are thrilled with the strides Marcus has made in just the last month! With the help of United Way, our employees have the opportunity to learn and grow!" (Colleen Himmelberg, Executive Director)
Empac put $2.3 million back into the community last year through salaries. They empower many people with disabilities to improve their lives, and serve as a resource, not just for those with disabilities, but for companies and organizations throughout Franklin County.
"This innovative and comprehensive approach sets the bar high for the rest of the stat.We are setting the bar high for the rest of the state." (Bob Koch, COO)
United Way is proud to be a funding partner for Empac. United Way funding made it possible for Empac to purchase the CNC machine that has changed Marcus's life. It also provides for the personal assistant program through which employees who literally could not work without assistance are able to have a staff assistant to help them be successful.