Contract Production Tackles TCAT
By Briggs Seekins, Pre-Vocational Services Manager
When the original decision was reached to move Challenge's Contract Production social enterprise from South Hill Business Campus to the Food Hub in Groton, the most immediate concern for all pre-vocational staff was a logistical one: How were we going to transport everybody to a new work site, 18 miles away?
But what started as a daunting challenge has transformed into a great opportunity. New York has made it clear to agencies like Challenge that expanding greater community integration must be a primary concern for all OPWDD programming. And one of the most immediate solutions to our transportation problems has also given us the chance to facilitate much more community exposure for a number of our participants who do not always get such opportunities.
||Program participants who work in Challenge's Contract Production social enterprise business pose for a photo before boarding a TCAT bus bound for Groton. They were joined by Employment Specialist Sue Heath, left, and
Pre-Vocational Services Manager Briggs Seekins, right.
Starting on Tuesday, July 5, the first day of full operations at the Food Hub in Groton, a cadre of Challenge Pre-vocational participants, along with their co-workers, met at the Green Street bus stop at 8 a.m., in order to take TCAT Route 40 to Groton. The majority of the participants making this move had little or no experience using public transportation. In order to support the participants, Career Explorations has designated prevocational staff each day to make the trip.
On most days, the primary staff involved has been long-term Employment Specialist Sue Heath. Sue has reported high spirits among the participants, with a lot of productive and enjoyable conversations taking place during the 40-minute ride out and back. For hard-working people like our participants, who have often been denied the opportunity to spend much time around other working people in the community, it has been exciting simply to be downtown, as the Commons area comes alive at the start of a new business day. The excitement level has been palpable each morning.
Assessing TCAT has also allowed Challenge participants to be at the cutting edge of supporting an important part of the Tompkins County infrastructure. The route we are using has traditionally had very little ridership on the way to Groton. Our participants who are now making this trip amount to a substantial rise in TCAT numbers on a weekly and monthly basis.
Currently, the route Challenge participants take only goes as far as downtown Groton, where Food Hub staff provide a shuttle service the rest of the way to the Hub. However, it is hoped that the bump in ridership Challenge is providing will allow TCAT to justify expanding their route all the way to the Hub. Such a move would make the entire industrial area around the Hub more viable for development and expansion. In this way, Challenge's participants and workers are contributing to the potential economic development of the county.