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Here's a Letter That Says It All

Workshop services provide employment for Missourians and valuable services for local communities.
The Monroe Sheltered Workshops forwarded this insightful letter to the editor which recently appeared in a local newspaper:

Extended Employment Sheltered Workshops Teach Love, Compassion

I have heard sheltered workshops called sweatshops by some people. I have also heard criticism regarding the low wages some of the employees are receiving at some of the sheltered workshops. I would like to relate something to you and let you decided.

About a month a go, an employee of the Monroe County Sheltered Workshop became quite ill. This young man, Don Grant, loved working at the sheltered workshop. He couldn't wait to get to work each day. This place of employment gave him and others a sense of responsibility and self worth. Unfortunately, this employee becomes sick and was diagnosed with cancer. This young man was in the hospital for several weeks. During this time, the staff at the Monroe City Sheltered Workshop and Lydell Williams (this young man lived in Lydell's home for years) took turns staying with him. They would stay in shifts so this man would not be left alone. There may have been others who did the same, but what I do know is that the staff at the workshop would stay during the night, during the day or whenever it was necessary to make sure this person had someone with him at all times.

When the time came for him to be taken to the Lord, it was the Sheltered Workshop staff who planned the funeral. Each employee of the workshop has a life insurance policy. I know for a fact this amount did not cover the entire cost of the funeral. The sheltered workshop made up the difference. It was they who made sure it was done the way this young man would have wanted it. It was the staff of the sheltered workshop as well as Lydell that made sure there was enough food brought in for a nice dinner after the funeral. I sat behind Polly and my heart went out to her. The tears that fell from her eyes were genuine tears of grief. Not only had she lost a person she knew well from the workshop, but she had truly lost someone she loved.

No money was exchanged for the time spent at the hospital with this employee nor would any have been accepted if offered. It was done out of love and respect of this employee. Donald's friends and coworkers at the sheltered workshop filled the room to overflowing. There were people in the community who truly loved this young man. One of the ministers who spoke at Don's funeral and had worked with Don at the workshop broke down and cried during his speech. This shows the impact and love Don Gant had with those who had the opportunity to know him.

I went to the funeral out of respect for my friend Polly Nicholson. I realized what a loss I had in my own life for not having known this very special person. I wish our paths would have cross because if I had given Don Gant the chance, he would have become a true friend for life. He held no grudges nor did he hold dislike for anyone.

When I think of his workshop and the home in which this very special young man lived and worked, I think of the many parents whose minds would be more rested if they knew the care and love given by the workshop and Lydell Williams. It is so very difficult to see our children go off on their own in the world. It's even more difficult to know we need to help your special needs child live as independently as possible. I thank God for people like the above who can give quality of life and love to those who need it. I ask you again, do you really think sheltered workshops are sweatshops?

Sandra Fenn
Executive Director
Region III Council on Developmental Disabilities

MASWM The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers
If you have questions, please contact:
President Rob Libera – (636) 227-5666 or
or Legislative Chair Kit Brewer – (314) 647-3300 or