Local, state and national dignitaries helped commemorate the launch Wednesday of two new services now provided by WATCH Inc., Wheeling's employment workshop for individuals with disabilities.
Employees and staff of the Wheeling Area Training Center for the Handicapped and long-time founders and sponsors of the organization, the Civitan Club of Wheeling, hosted Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie, Rep. David McKinley and a representative of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
McKenzie issued a proclamation making Wednesday "Disability Awareness Day" in the city, praising WATCH, which "unites the efforts of men and women with disabilities who give their all to provide a productive work atmosphere and showcase their abilities while being an active addition to the work force."
Rep. David McKinley, left, studies the new WatchDog secure document destruction service at Wheeling’s WATCH Inc. operations center with employees, from left, Regina Boone, Jessica Sedilko and Earl Howell.
McKinley, R-W.Va., spoke about his personal appreciation for what WATCH does and what it means to its employees and to the community at large. McKinley said he has a young grandson with multiple disabilities, so the congressman and his family understand what challenges WATCH employees and their families have overcome in a personal way.
McKinley said he knows how and why organizations like WATCH are so essential in helping people facing similar challenges - and how happy he is to offer his present and ongoing support.
WATCH's new "secure document destruction" service, named WatchDog, is now ready to accept files from area businesses and government agencies that require obsolete or expired files to be eliminated without exposing confidential information. McKinley and other dignitaries later toured the WatchDog operations, watching a simulation of the secure document destruction process using scrap paper rather than actual files, to protect confidentiality and maintain security of customers' records in process.
Officials listened to WATCH employees talk about what their jobs are and how much they enjoy their work, which provides them with real income while allowing them to make genuine contributions to the community.
Another service, Files At Your Fingertips, has been relocated from its former home at the old Russell Nesbitt Services Inc. building in Fulton to the renovated WATCH workshop on Water Street.
Russell Nesbitt Services continues its management of WATCH, where Wheeling native Lynn Wallace is the recently named director of operations. Kurt Benedict is Wallace's assistant in charge of WatchDog and Files At Your Fingertips, managing the flow of materials and marketing both services.
Jim Freeland, recently named Russell Nesbitt's executive director, emphasized in his remarks the breadth of community support that allowed WATCH to offer its new services in the completely renovated operations center.
Freeland thanked "the WATCH board who approved the majority of the funding for the renovations, along with American Electric Power, Wal-Mart, American Sanitary and Lowe's, who provided financial support and donations of materials."
"The Wheeling Civitans have embraced the changes and provided their moral and financial support, as well," Freeland continued.
WATCH was founded by Wheeling Civitans in 1967 as an innovative workshop for "supported employment." The local Civitan organization continues its sponsorship through a variety of activities, including an annual steak fry to raise money and awareness in the community.
The WatchDog technology maintains around-the-clock surveillance and security until the materials are fed through a commercial shredder, obtained with help from the City of Wheeling, in a room from which any cameras, cell phones and other devices are banned, to assure confidentiality of the materials being destroyed.