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CDS wins employment award second year running

CDS wins employment award second year running

Posted: Friday, June 20, 2008 9:22 pm

By HEATHER SCARANO Special to The Messenger For a second year, Community Developmental Services in Martin has been named the Agency of the Year by the West Tennessee Employment Consortium. The consortium, based out of Memphis, gives the award annually to the one West Tennessee community service provider that is doing the best job helping developmentally-disabled adults become employed in the community. CDS, a non-profit organization serving developmentally-disabled adults in Henry, Weakley, Obion, Lake and Carroll counties, accepted the award at a ceremony held recently in Jackson. “We have tried to put as many of our individuals as possible into real-world work settings,” said Sandy Stevens, director of vocational services for CDS. “Whether or not they continue in the job, we just want to give them the opportunity to work.” Just under half of all CDS clients, about 56 individuals, are currently participating in the agency’s supported employment program. These adults work at a variety of businesses throughout Henry, Weakley, Obion and Carroll counties. “It’s so incredibly rewarding to receive this award because our staff work very hard. We are fortunate to have such dedicated staff, who understand the value of supported employment for our clients,” said Cathy Cate, executive director of CDS. “Our staff do a really good job, not just in supporting the clients, but also the employers.” The State of Tennessee mandates that community service providers try to involve at least 30 percent of their clients in supported employment activities. At 42 percent, CDS is well above the state’s established goal. “We do an extremely good job of screening and matching our clients with potential employers, which is why we have such a successful program here at CDS,” Ms. Cate said. This is the second time CDS has been named the Agency of the Year since joining the 10-member West Tennessee Employment Consortium in 2001. CDS won the award last year, too. Geraldine Garrison, a CDS client and employee of Wendy’s in South Fulton, also won the Employee of the Year award in 2007. “You really can’t decide, sitting at your desk, which individuals are going to do well in supported employment and which are not,” Ms. Stevens said. “We really can’t go by what we might think, we just have to do. We won’t know until we try. It’s a positive and forward-thinking philosophy because we believe everybody deserves an opportunity to work and contribute to the community.” CDS also operates a sheltered workshop program at its facility in Martin Industrial Park. On any given day, about 65 CDS clients can be found hard at work stretching ham sacks, packing hardware boxes and working on other hand-assembly projects. “Our staff take such pride in helping our clients find significance through working — all the staff — at the workshop and even going back to the group homes, where our staff make sure the clients are work-ready,” Ms. Cate said. “It is also a testament to the good work our clients are doing for businesses throughout the community. Winning this award is truly a team effort.” Editor’s note: Heather Scarano is communications and development coordinator for Community Developmental Services. Published in The Messenger 6.20.08

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