Work agency for the disabled comes to Freeport Street

An established human service organization is enlarging its operation and finding a new home in Clam Point. WORK Inc., a vocational and employment agency that trains mentally and developmentally disabled clients to join the workforce and helps guide them to employment, is moving their headquarters to the former Pollack Manufacturing building on Freeport Street in October.

The 130,000 square foot building is approximately three times larger than WORK Inc.’s current location in North Quincy. The new building will help WORK Inc. serve more clients daily as well as allow the group to include disabled communities that may not have easily accessed the current location, such as those with sight or hearing impairments.

“Their whole integration into society begins with work and most of us take that for granted,” said WORK Inc. spokesman James P. Cawley Jr.

The move to Dorchester was a necessary one, said Cawley. The Quincy site, where the agency has been headquartered for over thirty years, could no longer house the organization’s growing number of clients, already numbered at about 400 per day, and the agency’s 325 person staff. By situating their operation in Dorchester, Cawley said, WORK Inc. will benefit from increased access to the MBTA, the South East Expressway and ample parking.

The agency is 80 percent funded by the state’s Department of Mental Health Services, which was recently wracked with budget cuts as a result of Massachusetts’ increasingly dire financial difficulties. Cawley said that, due to the limits of the Quincy location, the agency had no choice but to expand into the $4.9 million site in order to increase their service. Funding for the building’s purchase and $15 million renovation was in place prior to the state Budget cuts, said Cawley. One of WORK Inc.’s goals is to take individuals off of public disability payments and give them paying jobs, turning them into taxpayers.

“You can see the change in people the day they start working,” said Cawley. To recognize public officials and private citizens who have aided the agency throughout the relocation process, WORK Inc. is holding an award ceremony Thursday, June 11 at 6 p.m. across the street from the new building at IBEW local 103’s function hall.
The addition of large storage areas, multiple loading docks and a greatly expanded interior will enable the agency to employ more individuals in their on-site manufacturing operation, where clients are trained and put to work at various tasks in a factory setting.

As the economy turns sour, WORK Inc. has seen increased competition for the jobs typically filled by their clients. Retirees are increasingly returning to the workforce for retail and supermarket jobs, while many other lower-paying positions are being filled by those who have recently become unemployed. How employers benefit from hiring a WORK Inc. placement, said Cawley, is in the dedication most clients exhibit once they find a job that suits them. Because most disabled individuals are less mobile than the average worker, they are more likely to stay at the job and save employers from having to retrain personnel with a high rate of turnover. WORK Inc. plans to rent out portions of the building as office space to other non-profit organizations and programs.