In over five decades of operation, The Workshop of Davidson has served nearly 4,000 people with disabilities. The organization has and continues to be a proactive advocate for adult individuals who have disabilities.
In 1964, the Workshop’s founder, the late Sarah Bray, and others, saw the need for a program that would benefit people with mental and physical disabilities in Davidson County. The original group of 17 assembled other interested Davidson County residents and organized the Workshop. The organization was founded with its incorporation May 22, 1964. The first meeting of the incorporators was July 16 of that year.
The original name for the organization was the Sheltered Workshop for the Handicapped, Inc. Under the urging of Dr. John W. Varner, the name was changed on July 1, 1975 to the Davidson County Sheltered Workshop, Inc. It was the first facility for Mrs. Bray who went on to organize 18 vocational units in the state. In 1964, the Workshop’s first location was in a rented mobile home with less than 500 square feet. There were seven clients with Bray serving as the first Administrator and instructor along with one volunteer, Regina Burkhart. After a local minister and volunteers worked to convert a nearby rented building on Highway Business 85 into usable space, the staff and clients moved into that facility in 1965.
The next administrator, Mr. Carrol Gantt, took over the leadership of the Workshop in 1966 and with community and state funds, led the organization to its current location at 275 Monroe Road. Land for the facility was leased from the Davidson County Board of Education. The Workshop experienced further expansion in 1973 with the addition of more production area, a cafeteria and a classroom annex. Offices for Community Employment Services Specialists, also known as Job Coaches, were added as well.
With humble beginnings, the Workshop began a partnership with local men’s and women’s group homes about the time the organization came into being. After a series of moves and changes in the make-up of the facilities, both homes were merged with the Workshop by a vote of the Board of Directors in February of 1968. Both homes were licensed in 1982 by Facility Services of North Carolina and were staffed with house managers. These facilities now provide a home for six men and six women, most of whom take part in Workshop programs throughout the week.
With a bequeathed gift from the Nora Venable Estate in the late 90’s, a 5,000 square foot warehouse, the Venable Building, was dedicated in November of 1999. This modern building complete with a loading dock, increased the total square footage of the three Workshop facilities to almost 20,000 sq. ft. With the expanded vocational training areas, the Workshop was now beginning to add to its list of contract customers. Some of the early jobs included furniture repair and finishing, along with upholstering and sewing. Currently, more than 20 companies from the surrounding area, utilize the Workshop consumers for a variety of different contracted jobs, such as small parts assembly, sorting, gluing, folding, packaging, labeling and more. With an increase in work training came growth in successfully placing individuals in competitive employment with on-site job coaching and long-term follow-up.
With a steady stream of contract work beginning to flow through the Workshop along with a consistent training program and classroom time, thanks to a partnership with Davidson County Community College’s Adult Compensatory Education initiative, the State of North Carolina, through Piedmont Behavioral Healthcare Services, began providing funding for the Adult Development Vocational Program (ADVP). The Workshop is now accredited in six employment services by CARF, the Commission of Accreditation of Rehabilitation Services. The programs accredited include three Community Employment Services, job development, job site development and job support. The other three service programs are comprehensive vocational evaluation, employment development and organizational employment. Accreditation was first received in October of 1997 and has been renewed every three years since. The Workshop has continued to this day to grow in size and scope with the services offered to its consumers. In addition to adult basic and compensatory education and residential services, the Workshop’s most recent addition has been the Innovations Program, that serves individuals on the Innovations Waiver.
After over four decades of service to the Workshop, Carrol Gantt retired in 2011. The current Executive Director, Mike Foster, took over for Mr. Gantt and has continued the tradition of not only quality services, but the positive work and training environment the Workshop has been known for years, allowing its consumers to flourish in their personal growth.
There are currently over 80 people being served and provided employment through Workshop programs. For many, the Workshop provides more than a job or a means to earn a wage; it represents an opportunity to gain self-sufficiency, personal growth and a sense of self-worth that many consumers would be unable to obtain without the organization. The Workshop of Davidson, Inc. thanks you for your support throughout the years and we look forward to serving Davidson County for many years to come.