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Facing Challenge, Helping Others in Mid-Missouri



C.J. Welch brings a broad perspective to Boonslick Industries and MASWM.
C.J. Welch brings a strong commitment to his work as director of Boonslick Industries in Boonville and Area VI Director for MASWM.

Before becoming a workshop manager 12 years ago, C.J. led a successful career with the 3M Company. He and his wife also raised two sons, including 22-year-old diagnosed with autism. Although all of this kept him busy, he agreed to volunteer with MASWM as Area VI Director four years ago.

“It basically began when Bruce (Young, former MASWM president) took over,” he recalled. “Bruce asked me to serve, and since I had some familiarity with the area, I agreed.”

He describes the hours of volunteer service is doable and especially enjoys working with other managers in his district and helping promote workshops. But he reserves his biggest appreciation for the association’s other officers and legislative co-chairs. “I really appreciate all of the directors and legislative reps,” he said. “They’re going to Washington (D.C.) and Jeff City, doing all of that extra work. It’s just amazing.”

Facing Challenge

As a workshop director, he knows many of the issues seen by other managers, including increased calls by some who want to eliminate workshops entirely. With a son diagnosed with autism and deep experience in the field, C.J. finds the idea faulty at best.

“That’s very unfortunate,” he stated. “We’d love to be out of a job if all of our employees could work in the community. But the supports that are required are tremendous. Many people in workshops just cannot work in the community on a consistent basis, and you can’t just throw them out there on their own.”

That reality is not easily visible to those who have not worked with people who have disabilities, especially moderate or severe disabilities. For example, some can become upset if their routine changes unexpectedly, a situation not likely to be handled well at a private business. “If they get upset, they don’t get time out,” C.J. said. “A lot of issues just won’t be addressed in community employment. It’s an important option, but workshops are, too. You need a range of choices to fit different people.”

Doing the Work

Dealing with these and other issues is why C.J. agreed to serve on the MASWM Board of Directors. Some of the issues involve legislation, while other efforts focus on helping managers. One example involves area meetings being held around the state to give individual managers a chance to discuss common issues and share ideas. District VI recently held one of the first sessions in Missouri.

“All but two or three of our (area) managers are new,” C.J. noted. “They’re learning, but that can be a tough position to be in. We want MASWM to be a resource for them. If they have a question, they know who to contact.”

C.J’s workshop in Boonville is offers good opportunities for contracts that help provide employment. “We definitely have the work,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we don’t have to go out and beat the bushes. Some shops don’t and that’s a big challenge.”

Some of that work has been fought for, however. The area lost a Caterpillar Inc. plant that had provided several contracts. A car detailing effort by the workshop eventually failed to bring enough work to justify the effort. But with a highway rest area contract, the Savvy Seconds retail store and other work, Boonslick Industries has successfully developed employment opportunities for its 50 workers with disabilities. “This is a really good location,” he noted. “We have challenges, but the community has been good.”

All of this takes effort, but it’s an effort that C.J. and other managers enjoy. “Our people get so much out of their work,” he said. “It’s more than just a job. They take pride in their work, and they enjoy being with others. You see that every day.”

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MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact: President Aaron Martin – (816) 796-7070 or amartin@job1one.org;
or Legislative Co-Chairs: Kit Brewer – (660) 263-6202 or kbrewer@rcsiemployment.org
and Brian Hogan – (816) 483-1620 or bhogan@bvinds.org