The event is for prospective clients who may need assistance for behavioral or physical disabilities, and for those in the general public with an interest in the work and mission of the state agency.
Delwyn Smith, manager of the Cleveland facility, said the open house is being held in conjunction with Disabilities Awareness Month and Disability Mentoring Day — both recognized in October.
The Rehabilitation Center is located at 3069 Overlook Drive. You can take 20th Street to Shady Lane (just east of the Cleveland Bypass interchange), turn left for about one-quarter of a mile and turn right on Overlook. The center is at the end of Overlook at the top of the hill.
Smith said the center has been at this location for about 10 years, and previously was located at Durkee Road and Bates Pike.
The center works with clients who have behavioral or physical limitations, attempting to get them meaningful employment or return them to the workplace.
“We have three programs among approximately 12 employees,” Smith said. “These programs include vocational evaluation, a workshop for training, and job placement.”
“We’re kind of an odd bird (as a state agency),” continued Smith. “We’re the only state agency that doesn’t operate on state dollars. We depend on city, county and the federal government for our funds.”
According to Smith, local funding includes 80 percent from the county and 20 percent from the city. This is approximately $80,000 from Bradley County and $20,000 from the city. The center then receives 70 percent more (more than $200,000) from the federal government.
Wednesday’s open house is an opportunity to meet with center employees and tour the facilities, including a workshop used for clients. Training includes skills individuals can use in the workplace.
Smith emphasized the center is a two-phase process, with a number of local businesses and industries utilizing the trainees for specific services. The clients are compensated for their work during training.
Local industries utilizing the center’s services include Whirlpool, Hardwick Clothes, Eaton, Peyton’s, Schering-Plough and Duracell. In a recent visit to the workshop, the client workforce was preparing protective base pads for Whirlpool.
Also on Wednesday, two or three of the center’s current clients will be going to Sam’s Club on East Brainerd Road in Chattanooga for a tour of the business. “They’re one of our partners, and assistant manager Jeff Wiseman is considering the hire of some of our people,” Smith said.
“(At the open house) we want to provide people with a little more information on what we do here at the center and in the workshop,” said the center manager.
The open house is also an opportunity for anyone with limited abilities to seek assistance. They can also call the center at 478-0332 and ask to speak with a counselor. These counselors refer prospects to the center’s program.
Smith said the center normally has between 20 to 25 clients. “The vocational evaluators attempt to recommend about 116 each year, and we try to find employment for about 30 annually.”
Among approximately 12 employees at the local facility, there are two counselors for the Bradley County community, one for McMinn and Polk counties and another for Meigs and Rhea counties — the center’s coverage area.
The Cleveland center is one of 17 such facilities across the state and the third in the southeast corner of the state. Two other center are located in Manchester and Winchester. The local operation is coordinated by a regional office in Chattanooga.