Members | About Workshops | Services for Missourians | News




Dignified and meaningful employment
for people with disabilities




New Board Secretary Finds Motivation, Challenge in Workshop Efforts


MASWM Secretary Natalie Couch brings both workshop and corporate experience to her efforts.
Natalie Couch brings a unique background to her service as MASWM’s new board of directors secretary.

A native of Camdenton, Mo., she left her hometown in 2000 and helped guide dramatic changes for Cintas Corporation in Lenexa, Kan. Then, in late 2016, she seized an opportunity to serve as executive director of Lake Area Industries in her hometown. It was not only a return to Camdenton, but a move into a field that had always drawn her.

“Taking this job was a double win for me,” she said. “It’s not only a great community, but it’s a great organization in a wonderful field.”

Multiple Talents

A graduate of Central Missouri University in Warrensburg, Natalie brought a skill set that found ready use at Lake Area Industries. Like most workshops, LAI provides packaging and assembly services for businesses – along with other work that Natalie had experienced in the corporate world with Cintas.

Although known for its work and uniform apparel, Cintas has become increasingly involved in document management and security, and much of Natalie’s work was helping lead the organization’s efforts in document management. Coincidentally, some of the other services at Lake Area Industries include recycling confidential papers.

“That was a good match,” she recalled. “I had some background that fit that directly.”

But like workshop managers nationwide, Natalie also faces a lot of jobs that are new, including her workshop’s recent entry into recycling boat dock foam. “I’ll need to be a chemist next,” she laughed. “I’m also still learning about our garden center. We do a little bit of everything. That’s why workshops are so interesting.”

Also “interesting” is that the entire Lake Area Industries shop and its 50 employees with disabilities are led by just Natalie and a six-member staff. It’s a situation familiar to most workshops.

“We’re spread pretty thin,” she acknowledged. “It gets hectic at times.”

Motivation

What helps her and others deal with this sometimes frenzied pace is the nature of the work itself: serving people with disabilities. “I find it very enjoyable,” she said. “I’ve just loved it very much, and I love coming to work. I really didn’t have that before. I didn’t dread it, but this is just different. It has that internal motivation that our employees have. It’s what keeps you going.”

Her involvement in MASWM follows that motivation, as well as her corporate background, which taught her that networking and communicating also help. “Being involved in MASWM is a good learning experience and keeps me abreast of all the hot topics going on,” she said. “I’m all for anything to support this mission.”

With two sons, Cody and Carter, ages 8 and 5, Natalie and her husband, Paul, spend time with sports and at the nearby Lake of the Ozarks. “It’s fun,” she said. “I get out and play with them as much as I can. Who needs a vacation when you live at the lake?”

Clear Vision

Natalie doesn’t minimize the challenges faced by the workshops she leads or workshops in general. But she also keeps the positive aspects in mind even as she faces issues that range from national policies on disability rights to broken plumbing. “Every day is different, and you never know what will come up,” she said. “You never get bored with it.”

That same excitement and anticipation is part of her service as an officer for MASWM, work that includes countless unseen meetings over the many challenges faced by workshops throughout Missouri and the country. “MASWM is a great organization and offers so much to its members,” she explained. “I’m sure I’ll get more out of it than I put into it.”


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@icanmo.org
and Brian Hogan – (816) 483-1620 or bhogan@bvinds.org