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Is it honest work or a sweatshop?

The Development Workshop hosted a celebration of honest work Thursday, but one activist group is calling foul. If members had their way, they’d close programs like the Development Workshop.

The Association of People Supporting Employment First believe clients of the program aren’t being paid fairly and should work out in the community. Experts at the Development Workshop know not everyone can intermingle with the community, but they can work. Which is why clients like Sandra Abend are happy to receive help from the organization. She said she could only express how it feels to work in a brief statement.

“It feels awesome,” said Abend.

People like Abend come to Development Workshop to push through their disabilities with honest work like making tape dispensers or sewing suspenders. This is work that Executive Director Mike O’Beness said is anything but a sweatshop.

“If you come and take a tour, you can look at people at their jobs. They’re happy, they are contributing, they’re learning new skills and achieving goals that they have set for themselves,” said O’Beness.

In light of the clients’ work, every year the workshop honors their clients’ success with a banquet. But that will end, along with the program, if proposed legislation finds it’s way into law. Luckily there are some people in high places, like Senator Brent Hill, who understand what this program really means.

“I think the work that these people do is very meaningful,” he said.

Hill got a chance to speak at Thursday’s celebration.

“They wanted me to talk about the value of work,” Hill said.

He had much to say about the clients because he has witnessed their work firsthand.

“The ones (clients) I talk to enjoy the work. It’s not just the work. It’s the feeling of actually contributing something, of doing something important,” said Hill

The Development Workshop has been around for 42 years. In this last year they’ve found work for more than 100 clients in the community.

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