50 with disabilities find work at center

Everyone was hard at work the morning I walked up to the assembly lines at Cabarrus Vocational Opportunities on Commercial Park Drive, near the S&D Coffee annex off Rock Hill Church Road.

Charles Calandra was taping pieces of 8-gauge wire together for McKenzie Taxidermy Supply of Salisbury, while Alan McClellan, Brian Rucker and Angelo Kirkpatrick filled bags with Cheerios-branded racing products for Breaking Limits, a Huntersville marketing firm.

Ken Brinkerhoff and Allen Troutman folded cardboard to fit into boxes for Hitachi Metals USA in China Grove.

The 50 men and women earn $8.50 an hour doing contract work each day for companies as large as General Electric.

The workers all have developmental disabilities or brain injuries. They smiled and motioned me to their tables to watch them work.

"These guys want to work, just like everybody else," director Glenn McDonald said. "There's a feeling of worth, and they get excited each time we get a new contract."

The nonprofit Cabarrus Vocational Opportunities Inc. opened last fall as part of Salisbury-based Rowan Vocational Opportunities, which has served people with disabilities since the 1960s.

Opening the Concord center significantly reduced the commute for workers from Harrisburg, Mount Pleasant and other areas, McDonald said. Previously they were taken to Salisbury by van.

Though closer to home, the Concord center already is so pinched for space that CVO plans to embark soon on a $400,000 capital campaign to double the building's size.

Leaders of the nonprofit also know many more people with disabilities are in Cabarrus who could benefit from working at the center, McDonald said.

The center's $3million annual budget includes support from the state, foundations, Rowan County and the United Way of Rowan. But it also relies on community fundraisers, which is why I hope you can make the Piedmont Choral Society's free all-patriotic-music concert at 3 p.m. today at Forest Hill United Methodist Church, 265 Union St. N., Concord.

An offering will be taken. Proceeds benefit the good folks at Cabarrus Vocational Opportunities.

The concert will be repeated 7 p.m. Friday to raise money for the nonprofit choral society.