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Managing a Workshop: A Challenge and an Honor



Chuck Reade: Workshops are a safety net and a range of opportunities for people with disabilities.
You might find it hard to believe, but Chuck Reade believes he has learned more from his work at Christian County Enterprises than he could ever give – at least in one important sense.

“I’ve learned a great deal from people with disabilities and their appreciation for life and love of life,” he noted. “It’s hard to explain if you haven’t done it, but it’s really special. It makes you want to come to work every day.”

Seeing Is Believing

Chuck has good reason to know he’s not the only workshop staff member who feels this way. A manager at the workshop in Nixa since 2016, he previously served 28 years as a technical field supervisor for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Sheltered Workshop Division. In that role, he worked with shops throughout the state. He’s also active in MASWM, serving as Area IV director and working closely with other managers in Southwest Missouri.

Although his MASWM service is voluntary, his reason for doing it helps explain a lot of his ideas about workshops. “It’s important that we communicate among managers,” he said, noting a recent regional meeting in Joplin. “It gives us a chance to talk about the struggles we have and what we do to deal with them. We can help each other out.”

Helping Hands

A good example is the collaboration between Christian County Enterprises and another, nearby workshop to help each other with work overloads. If one of the shops gets behind or has an unusually large contract, the other pitches in, ensuring the contract is fulfilled on time. For businesses that in many ways are competitors, it’s an important option.

“A lot of managers can be territorial,” he noted. “That’s really understandable. But this really works if you can trust one another. It’s much better than losing a customer. That’s one of the reasons why things like the regional meetings are important.”

Basics First

Despite this “big picture” perspective, Chuck stresses workshop basics first. “I’m an old workshop guy,” he said. “There’s a place for workshops, but I’m not telling you workshops are the only place for people with disabilities. They need this as a safety net. It’s a real need.”

Like other managers, Chuck sees this need firsthand at his shop, which has 72 employees with disabilities and 12 staff members. One of the most challenging aspects of the work involves the “dual roles” almost everyone in workshops must fill. A dramatic case involved a manager who had to interrupt work on a critical bid for a national corporation in order to assist with an employee who had a seizure. Although managers in other fields deal with personnel issues, few see the challenges faced by employees with disabilities, including some who have severe and multiple disabilities. Although this “workshop difference” is constant and often dramatic, it is something that many outside of workshops never see,

“It’s not easy,” he said. “Our staff people are really important. And I feel like I’m contributing to something that I really enjoy doing: working with people with disabilities. It’s really an honor.”

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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