Tidewater Occupational Center celebrates another year

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 20, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Have you ever used a meal kit?

No? Bet you have. They’re the supplies that appear in school cafeterias, fast food restaurants, and other cuisine-based environments around the globe. The small package of provisions – plastic ware, condiments and napkins wrapped in plastic – is invaluable to those who eat on the go.


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So the next time you happen to pick one up, think of the kind souls at the Tidewater Occupational Center on Pruden Boulevard. Employees there put together 60,000 kit cases every month, providing 40 states with 20 million pieces of makeshift cutlery every year.

On Friday afternoon, the center’s employees got their yearly thanks in the form of the annual Christmas party at the Suffolk Armory.

&uot;We’ve been doing this every year since the center opened in 1971,&uot; said administrative director Barbara McClenny, watching many of the center’s 153 workers electric slide the day away.

The non-profit center allows mentally challenged adults from all over South Hampton Roads to earn a living wage with assembly work.

&uot;They work hard all year,&uot; McClenny said. &uot;They really put forth the extra effort and do a great job. This is to let them know how much we appreciate them.&uot;

Kathryn Leggett is something of a meal kit expert; she compiled a perfect attendance record at the center last year. Her efforts won her the &uot;Client of the Year&uot; award from the center.

&uot;She comes to work every day,&uot; said executive director Dale Feltes. &uot;All of them are pretty easy to work with; we usually don’t have any trouble.

&uot;I come to work to be with my friends,&uot; said Leggett, who was given a $100 check as part of her prize. &uot;It gives me something to do. I didn’t have any idea that I was going to win.

&uot;I came here to dance and eat. I’m already looking forward to next year’s party!&uot;

Between dances, several employees entertained their friends and co-workers with their own solo singing skills. One sang, &uot;Amazing Grace,&uot; another, &uot;Yes, Jesus Loves Me,&uot; and a third the national anthem, which obligated several visitors to rise and place their hands over the hearts, facing the armory’s American flag.

Doug Edwards invoked the holiday spirit in his words; his rendition of &uot;Silent Night,&uot; brought down the house and brought up a standing ovation.

&uot;That’s one of my favorite hymns,&uot; said Edwards, a 27-year veteran of the center. &uot;I like that the best out of all of them, because it’s all about the Lord being risen.&uot;