After nearly 44 years, Christian Opportunity Center (COC) has closed the doors to the Sheltered Employment Program for the final time. COC’s Sheltered Employment Program began in 1974 when COC recognized a need for adult vocational services. On April 27th COC employees, persons supported, and families joined together to honor the success of COC’s Sheltered Employment Program. Although COC has maintained a Supported Employment program for the past several decades, the closing of the Sheltered Employment Program is part of state and federal regulations that are encouraging persons with disabilities to be fully integrated into community employment. For more information on reasons why Sheltered Employment is closing, click here.
The celebration event was held at the COC Plants in Pella and Oskaloosa. The event looked at the impact the Sheltered Employment Program has had in the communities over the past 44 years in Pella and 29 years in Oskaloosa. The ceremony recognized local businesses who had provided contract work that allowed COC to provide Sheltered Employment. Executive Director Rod Braun discussed these partnerships, “We have been so blessed by the local businesses, that it has just been amazing. One of the criticisms of sheltered employment is that it isn’t ‘real work’; everything we have done in this plant has been real work and has made a difference in the local economy.”
Cathy Wilson, Sheltered Employment Program Manager, also recognized the COC employees for their dedication to the people COC supports, “They’ve created a caring environment and direction for all of you here to learn new skills and prepare you for whatever your future holds.”
The event also focused on the future of the vocational program. “Everyone is moving to something that God has planned for you. We are moving forward to better things; whether it is retirement, life skills or other jobs, I look forward to the next step. We have had six persons supported get jobs in the community this last month, that is impressive,” Cathy Wilson stated.
Vocational Regional Director Kim Koellner ended the ceremony by talking to the individuals that COC supports and their families, “We know we have a lot of great opportunities ahead of us. COC is definitely going to be here for you. Whether it’s through the jobs, through life skills, or residential.”
In other news, COC will open a Life Skills program in Knoxville in May. Life skills is a non-work-oriented day habilitation program that focuses on teaching independent living skills, social skills and communication skills in an integrated community setting. COC will also expand its residential services in Oskaloosa this summer with a new group home.
Following a comprehensive search process, Christian Opportunity Center has promoted Jodi Tukker to Associate Director, after nearly nineteen years with the organization.
Tukker, a Pella native, graduated with a Bachelors of Social Work Degree from Dordt College in 1998.
Tukker began her time at COC working summers through college as a Direct Support Professional. Tukker’s first full-time position with COC came one year after she graduated from Dordt College in 1999, as a Program Coordinator of the Indianola Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/ID). She has held various positions in multiple programs; including Program Coordinator for both ICF and Residential Home and Community Based Services (HCBS). Her hard work and dedication to COC contributed to her rise through the ranks. In 2006, Tukker became a Program Manager for the HCBS program and in 2010 accepted a position as Regional Director of the ICF/ID program, a position that she has held for the past eight years.
“I believe my experience has given me a broad overview of all that COC does. It allows me to see the big picture of how COC operates and will help in leading our organization into the future,” Tukker said.
COC has had a succession plan in place since 2005 when the Board of Directors named John Eilers as the successor to current Executive Rod Braun. John Eilers, the current Associate Director, will succeed Braun as Executive Director on June 29, 2018. “Jodi’s background in the field and experience will serve COC well,” Eilers said.
Tukker added, “I am looking forward to this challenge and am looking forward to where COC will go in the future. We have a strong team.” Tukker will be responsible for the oversight of programs and human resource operations of COC beginning July 1.
COC’s mission is to integrate Christian values in teaching skills for life. Founded in 1969, COC provides residential and vocational support and services to nearly 300 people with disabilities in Dallas, Mahaska, Marion, Polk and Warren counties.