Evelyn Clemons retires after 32 years
Evelyn Clemons ended her journey at Clinco Sheltered Industries on Thursday, March 29 after 32 years. Clemons celebrated her 70th birthday on March 30. Although Clemons said she absolutely loves her job and her favorite thing is the people at Clinco, she said it is time for her to move on to retirement. Debbi LeDuc is now the new administrator; taking Clemons place effective April 1. LeDuc has been with Clinco for 12 years.
“Evelyn has been a great friend and mentor for the last 12 years,” said LeDuc. “I really enjoy working with her and we will all miss her here.”
“Where has the time gone,” added Paula Eivins, Clinco Assistant Manager, who started only three months after Clemons. “It has been a journey and a road well travelled.”
Clemons started as the administrator in 1986, just ten years after they opened their doors. She said she probably shouldn’t have been employed longer than a month, but believes God has taken care of Clinco for the last 32 years.
“I had never worked with people with disabilities before and had no training whatsoever,” explained Clemons. “After that first month, I asked ‘Where do I find jobs [for the workers]?’ The book keeper replied, ‘Well honey, you have to find them.’ I kinda went home in tears that day. I was looking for me a job, not the workshop. I went home and said ‘Okay God, if you want me here you better be doing something. He has sent us jobs and taken care of a lot of things.”
Clinco, a non-profit organization, opened in 1976 in what is now McCorkle’s (bar and restaurant sides). It was started by Clinton County parents who at the time, didn’t know what was going to happen to their disabled children. Clinco is governed by a volunteer board of directors, with members including a banker, a judge, a special education teacher and a parent. Clinco currently help people in Clinton, DeKalb and Buchanan counties but have had workers from Daviess County as well. As a sheltered workshop, Clinco is funded the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and gets a per diem rate, smaller than the school system is given.
Senate Bill 40 in Clinton and DeKalb Counties have helped Clinco throughout the years with various projects as well. Senate Bill 40 is a tax used to assist people with disabilities. Senate Bill 40 was also responsible for starting Clinton County Board of Services, which provides group homes for people with disabilities. Clemons explained it takes a combination of things to make things work.
When Clemons started, Clinco employed her, a truck driver and woodworker, part-time bus driver, a part-time bookkeeper and 13 people with disabilities. Over the years, Clinco has employed as many as 73 disabled people, with over 50 people with disabilities employed currently.
“We had an old forklift,” remembers Clemons about their original building. “We had to lay plywood down just to run it or we would fall through the floor. We had an old truck, pick-up or heavy-duty pick-up, which had a little box on it. It was horrible, we had to load it from the dock and it wasn’t dock height. One time, we ended up with the forklift half in the truck, half on the dock and we were just teeter-tottering it.”
In 1989, Clinco moved to their current location. Originally built for Ithaca Gun Co., the building was then owned by the City. Clemons explained it took a group effort, the City of Cameron, Clinco and Senate Bill 40 to help them buy and move to the building.
“One of the best things that ever happened to us was moving out here,” said Clemons. “It opened up lots of doors for us. It has allowed up access to come in and out. We do most of our recycling in semi-loads. We have four or five forklifts now. I remember saying, ‘If we ever outgrow this building, it is going to be too much for me.’”
Since moving, Clinco has added three building, including the Dollar Barn and the recycling center. The extra buildings came with grants and the recycling building was built with the help of Senate Bill 40, the City of Cameoron, Clinco and Region D Recycling and Waste.
“We have a crew that picks up trash and a window washing crew,” said Clemons about the various jobs Clinco provides. “We clean the Cameron Library, we do the recycling, and a few years ago we started the Dollar Barn to provide ourselves with jobs. We’ve done a little bit of everything over the years because no one thing is enough to make it work.”
Clemons has seven grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, who all live in Cameron. Several of her grandchildren have helped in the workshop over the years. Clemons explained one of her grandchildren has graduated to be a teacher and is planning on going into special education.
“I think it’s partially because he has been around it,” said Clemons. “I think a lot of people are afraid but when you grow up with [special needs people], it’s no big deal. They can come in here and work and not think anything about it”
Although Debbi has taken over and many of the workers have said they will miss her, Clemons said she loves the workshop and will be back to visit. Clemons said she is most looking forward to taking care of her house with her extra time. She also plans on spending more time with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and continuing her hobby of china painting.