UPDATE: Orange Grove Center to stop sorting recyclables, 45 jobs - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Orange Grove Center to stop sorting recyclables, 45 jobs lost

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Bobby Thomas, left, and Greg Poe work at a conveyer belt sorting recyclable materials at the Orange Grove recycling center on May 22, 2015. Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press. Bobby Thomas, left, and Greg Poe work at a conveyer belt sorting recyclable materials at the Orange Grove recycling center on May 22, 2015. Photo by Maura Friedman /Times Free Press.
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: About a dozen Orange Grove clients are still looking for work after a change in how the city's recyclables are sorted.
The change took effect Monday, July 25th following a new federal mandate that requires new guidelines for how Orange Grove serves its clients, who have developmental disabilities like down syndrome or autism..

The center closed up shop on Friday, displacing about 45 workers. Some clients have been with Orange Grove since 1990. 

The recycling program will continue but processing will be moved to another facility to meet federal mandate. Orange Grove officials say they've had success in finding new placements but they still need your help in finding the perfect match for everyone affected. 
 
Employee Bill Ramsey says he sorted plastics. 
 
"Since April of last year," said Ramsey. " I'm going to miss them so much."

Tera Roberts explains the news was heartbreaking to some and exciting for others. Employees had a going away "dance party" on their last day. 

"Friday was a great day, we thought we needed to end it with a bang so we had a big party," said Roberts. 

Almost all of the sorting-line employees started a new job Monday.

"I work at UTC," said Ramsey. Reporter: "Have you met a lot of good friends?" Ramsey: "Yes!" 

Bill tells Channel 3 he will miss his friends, but he's happy to meet new coworkers and do a good job. 
 
"I love everybody," said Ramsey.  
 
Twelve more disabled workers are still waiting for a new opportunity. The center is asking Chattanoogans to open their hearts and businesses to Orange Grove workers, who are eager to serve. 

"We've got about a dozen people today in part time jobs or in volunteer opportunities but that is not their dream job so we are still trying to talk to employers and get them to hire our folks," said Roberts. 

"Don't rest on assumptions about what you think our people or individuals we serve can do or can not do," said Heidi Hoffecker, Director of Orange Grove Center. 

If you are interested in hiring an individual with an intellectual or developmental disability, call Orange Grove Center at 423-629-1451. 


UPDATE: Big changes are coming to the recycling program at Chattanooga's Orange Grove Center, impacting dozens of disabled employees. 

The recycling program will continue, but processing will be moved to another facility to meet a federal mandate. From plastic, to aluminum, steal and fiber, everything recycled in Chattanooga is sorted at Orange Grove with a smile. All of the employees have a primary intellectual and or developmental disability like Down Syndrome or Autism. Orange Grove's clients were either born with a disability or developed one in the early stages of life. 
Many have worked There for years, some even decades. For some, the change brings the possibility of new opportunity. For others, it's a scary time as the center works to find positions in the community for about 45 workers.
    
"The mission of Orange Grove since we started in 1953 is to recognize, support and celebrate the qualities of the individual. Jobs give us spending power, a sense of self worth, they give us a purpose, they give us a social structure," said Heidi Hoffecker, Director of Orange Grove Center. 

Director Heidi Hoffecker says soon 45 of these workers will be left unemployed.

"All of the individuals got the news yesterday of course there is a lot of concern about that, lots of concern about what's going to happen to their jobs and what it means for their future," said Hoffecker. 

A new federal mandate requires Orange Grove workers be integrated in the community and the sorting line no longer qualifies. The non-profit organization serves more than 1000 clients and about 85 percent of it's budget comes from the government.

"The new settings rule requires that medicaid dollars be spent only in the most integrated settings," said Hoffecker. 

Orange grove will still be involved with the marketing and sale of the city's curbside recycling. They'll continue to staff collection centers too, but the express line will shut down on July 25th. 

"What we really need from community partners is for everybody to put their thinking cap on and really try to think outside the box," said Hoffecker. 

The center is asking Chattanoogans to open their hearts and businesses to Orange Grove workers, who are eager to serve. 

 "Don't rest on assumptions about what you think our people or individuals we serve can do or can not do," said Hoffecker. 

If you are interested in hiring an individual with intellectual or developmental disabilities, please call the Orange Grove Center at 423-629-1451. 


PREVIOUS STORY: Orange Grove will soon stop processing recyclables at its materials recovery facility in Chattanooga.  

The City’s curbside recycling program will continue, but the recyclable materials collected will be processed by another local materials recovery facility, according to a news release.

The change comes after a federal mandate affecting the settings in which individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disability are served. Orange Grove’s mission to serve those individuals has not changed, and the Center will continue to engage community and business partners for opportunities in the community. 

The Center will continue to operate the five drop-off convenience centers at Warner Park, DuPont, Batters Place, Brainerd Road, Patten Center, and Signal Mountain, as well as the refuse collection centers at Airport Road, North Access Road, and West 57th Street.

Orange Grove will continue to manage the sale and marketing of recyclable materials collected through the City curbside programs as well as the collection centers. The move to the new MRF will be completed by July 25, 2016.

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