Pallet jacks used for moving heavy boxes are pushed to the side, collecting dust. Participants in the community support service for people with developmental disabilities play bingo and mop the floors instead of staying busy packing boxes.
Normally, 35 to 40 adults are hard at work inside the workshop on Eisenhower Drive assembling boxes, packing products, sealing the boxes and preparing them for shipment.
For more than two decades, Lynndale partnered with Glit/Microtron to provide paid work for people in the service’s employment program. Materials were delivered to Lynndale, where the workers prepared the final product.
Glit/Microtron’s plant in Wrens, Ga. closed this spring, putting its 120 employees out of work and leaving Lynndale without the daily work its associates eagerly looked forward to everyday.
“I liked packing,” said Marcellus Martin, 35. “I’m frustrated. I need something to do.”
Martin, who has mild mental retardation, lives in Augusta with his mother and uncle. Some months he earned between $400 and $500 working for Glit/Microtron, using the money for clothes, music, games and other personal spending. As the plant phased out operations, his last paycheck was about $140.
Lynndale, which serves more than 200 individuals, needs a new company or multiple companies to provide contract work for its employment program.
Receiving a paycheck at the end of each month brought big smiles to the faces of Lynndale’s participants, but more important than the money was the opportunity to work like the rest of the community, said Sandra Johnson, Lynndale’s social services and consumer rights advocate.
“When they realized work was not available and no paycheck was coming at the end of the month, that was disheartening for them,” Johnson said.
Those in the employment program work 20 hours each week. Every six months, their work is observed and rated to determine their level of pay.
“We like to focus on what individuals can do, how they can contribute to society,” Johnson said. “As long as they have aspirations to do work, we feel they should be able to do so.”
Lynndale’s staff works one-on-one with participants to train them with skills to safely perform the work under some supervision.
Since the Glit/Microtron contract ended, workers and staff have been finding other activities to keep busy, including volunteering in the community.
Martin spent his downtime helping with mopping and sweeping at Lynndale’s facility, making special outings around town and placing first in bowling at the Special Olympics. Despite the fun, he’s urging a company to help Lynndale put him back to work.
“I really want people to help out,” he said. “I’m steady working. I’m dependable. I come to work every day.”