Ben Rogers Employment Training Facility beneficial for both clients and vendors alike

Ben Rogers Employment Training Facility beneficial for both clients and vendors alike

Since 1984, the Ben Rogers Employment Training Facility in Beaumont has functioned as a place for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to acquire valuable work skills and learn a work ethic essential to becoming productive members of society.

The training facility was formerly the Hollywood Day Care/Elementary School for low-income, African-American neighborhood children who lived in the area surrounding College, Hollywood and Fourth streets. Ben Rogers helped support the school and students throughout its duration. Rogers and his brothers also enabled the Beaumont State Center (now Spindletop Center) to build its current facility at Eighth Street through the purchase of park property at Gladys and Dowlen (now known as Rogers Park), which they gave to the City of Beaumont in exchange for the Eighth Street property.

When the school closed in 1984, he acquired the property and donated it to the Beaumont State Center to be used as a job training, “sheltered workshop” facility.

Named in honor of Ben Rogers following his death in 1994 for his lifelong advocacy of disabled children and adults, the facility has remained an invaluable resource to the community thanks to businesses who have entered into contracts with its workers to prepare such items as gift baskets and Shields of Strength dog tags, and to perform services such as collating packets, punching holes in lanyards, folding T-shirts or clothing for retail stores, screwing nuts and bolts together, putting wires or twine through grommets for warehouse tags, folding pizza boxes, stuffing envelopes, and tearing rags or cloths. There is also a shop where woodwork and carpentry are performed.

On a daily basis, there are approximately 50 individuals who perform repetitive tasks, giving them firsthand experience of what it is truly like to be a member of the workforce. Current and former clients who have contracted services with the Ben Rogers facility include American Valve and Hydrant, ExxonMobil PE Plant, City of Beaumont, Eastham Forge, Parker Business Forms, Papa John’s Pizza, Christ Covenant Church, Beaumont Bolt & Gasket and Cintas.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to feel gratification and a sense of accomplishment, which this facility certainly makes possible,” said Regina Rogers, a client advocate and donor for the facility. “By giving these wonderful individuals tasks that they can perform well, it is truly heartwarming to see how they develop pride in their work and enhanced self-esteem.”

The facility is currently in search of contracts with interested businesses to add even more available work for the individuals who utilize the facility, said Jerri Owens, supervisor at the Ben Rogers. Spindletop uses a contract procurement officer to gather work contracts for the training center, Owens said.

“(They) go out to the different vendors, companies and plants to find out what was there that we could actually do hands-on,” she said.

Lately however, the number of contracts have declined for the Ben Rogers, Owens said.

“We want contracts,” Owens said. “If we don’t have these contracts, (the clients) don’t have anything to do. If we don’t have any contracts on a particular day, they get on Personal Social Adjustment Training.”

 PSAT is a class that is designed to address issues related to professional and personal/social existence. Consideration is provided to a multitude of issues that workers tend to face, whether in a work environment or in one’s personal life. This is especially important for workers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A lack of contracts is detrimental to the facility’s clients because they are paid through the piece rate system, where workers receive wages based on output only.

American Valve & Hydrant has utilized the Ben Rogers facility for contracts and services for several years, said Tim Sudela, president of the company.

“They manufacture some of the wooden skids that we use to palletize our hydrants for shipment,” Sudela said. “More recently, they have started providing carpet strips that we use to protect the finish on our hydrants. We manufacture hydrants in various lengths, depending on customer requirements. The shorter hydrants are shipped with the ‘upper section’ resting on the wooden skids so the paint must be protected during shipment.”

“The company’s hydrants are shipped all over the United States and exported to countries throughout the world,” said Owens.

The partnership between Owens and Sudela is beneficial for both parties.

“The Ben Rogers Training Facility provides a quality product that meets our delivery requirements at a competitive price,” Sudela said. “More importantly, this partnership allows the employees at the Ben Rogers Training Facility an opportunity to work, to have a sense of self-worth, and to improve their self-esteem. That’s something we all want; to feel like we are making a difference and contributing to society.”