Opportunity Center: ‘win-win program’ for 40 years

Paul Boerger
Siskiyou Opportunity Center executive director Steve Rogers in the new showroom at the Mount Shasta facility, located 1516 South Mount Shasta Blvd. in Mount Shasta.

More than 40 years ago, the mother of a developmentally disabled child decided that he should have a meaningful life with dignity despite his disability. Lois Listoe of Dorris went looking for a program and found nothing. Gathering like-minded parents together, she decided that something must done, and in August, 1970 the Siskiyou Opportunity Center was born.

From its simple beginnings making pallets under a government contract, the non-profit Opportunity Center has grown into a multi-faceted enterprise providing a variety of services for the developmentally disabled including job training, employment, independent living skills and access to the community.

“It’s one of the most successful training programs around,” said SOC executive director Steve Rogers. “When the developmentally disabled work, it reduces the government contribution and the clients pay taxes. It’s a win-win program.”

SOC currently offers training in and employment in wood working, recycling, janitorial, landscaping, clerical, retail sales and housekeeping. Clients operate a recycling center, work in a wood shop that manufactures for-sale picnic tables, rocking benches and chairs, children's furniture, butcher blocks, garden benches and planter boxes, all of which come in various sizes. A new showroom is now open at the Mount Shasta facility, located 1516 South Mount Shasta Blvd. in Mount Shasta.

Among the notable services the clients provide is maintenance for two Caltrans rest areas, housekeeping for the Comfort Inn in Weed, as well as local churches, schools, and a radio station.

“We are about helping people overcome barriers and social isolation,” Rogers said. “We want our clients to have access to normal resources. A certain dignity goes with a job. We want people to say, there goes a person.”

For the 40th anniversary, Rogers points to the completion of a major modernization program for the recycling center in Mount Shasta. It took six years and cost $230,000.

The project included the following:

•?Purchase of recycling totes for community pick up of recycled material;

•?Purchase of recycling containers for our buy back area;

•?Development of a community donation center;

•?Purchase and installation of a horizontal bailer and conveyor;

•?Building of an in-ground pit and a metal building to cover the area around the conveyor and pit;

•?Building and installation of two metal RV covers for storage;

•?Building of a storage building for equipment and a wooden covered area near the horizontal baler;

•?Purchase of six tippers to store newspaper and a metal scoop bucket to pick up cardboard;

•?Building and adapting of a 1,500 square foot building for paper and cardboard storage and equipment repair;

•?Paving and leveling of all dirt areas in the Recycling Center;

•?Purchase of a 25 foot sorting belt for sorting blue bags;

•?Purchase of a floor scale with a 5,000 pound capacity;

•?Purchase of a recycling truck with a lift gate;

•?Installation of a security system; and

•?Purchase of an 8,000 pound 2004 Linde forklift.

Rogers is quick to thank the community for its support.

“We have had strong support from the community,” Rogers said. “We are very grateful for our community.”

Rogers said that with a $1,000 Siskiyou Leadership Alumni grant the Opportunity Center is assisting giving back to the community by partnering with the Mount Shasta Beautification Committee to clear land around the south entrance sign on the south end of town.

“This has been overgrown to the point no one even sees the sign. The SOC is offering labor, equipment and some funds to help landscape and recondition the sign and the area around the sign,” Rogers said. “The SOC has already put in over 65 man hours on the project and donated the use our equipment. The city has provided a place to haul the debris and permission to work in the area. This is a part of our 40th anniversary as we say ‘thank you’ to the community for their support by giving back with the skills of our staff and clients on this project.”

Rogers said the SOC is always seeking employment opportunities for its clients.

For more information on the Siskiyou Opportunity Center, visit the website at www.siskiyouoc.org.