SEKRI: From the production floor

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, July 17, 2018

If one were to describe SEKRI as a company, the phrase may sound something like “a humanitarian business,” and that description would not be far off the mark of the company’s mission statement and goals.

After opening up a new location in Pineville a little over six months ago, SEKRI has boosted morale in the local workforce as well as the community at large. The Daily News visited the SEKRI plant in Pineville for a view of the factory itself and to get an idea of the daily operations and dive into the goals of the company.

For those not in the know, SEKRI stands for Southeastern Kentucky Rehabilitation Industries, Inc., and they make it a priority to employee individuals who may be seen as unemployable most anywhere else. This means people with disabilities. With disabilities comes not just visible, physical impediments, but also mental health issues and developmental disabilities as well. They also employ addicts in recovery.

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Cheryl Sanders, the Director of Rehabilitation Services stated the “companies mission is to provide jobs for individuals that would have trouble finding a job or keeping a job. The long range goal is also for them to get competitive employment in the future if that’s what they want to do.”

SEKRI works with various organizations to aid their employees in the most thorough way possible.

“Our focus is on finding a job that highlights their ability. Our focus is making sure they have a job they get paid good wages for so they can become independent if that’s what they desire to do,” said Sanders.

One of the most striking things about how employ-oriented SEKRI is are the lengths the company goes in order to accommodate the employees’ specific needs. If an employ needs a special device or tool at their work station to make them more confident and productive at their task, SEKRI has engineers that will work to provide that special device or tool for said employee.

The company also has a full-time councilor that works at the plant.

“They’re not a counselor in the form that they do therapy with our employees, but they help them be successful, to help them put a plan together and to get the services that they need. And that can be a lot of things. It can be a home. It can be getting them into a therapy program,” said Sanders.

SEKRI will work with employee therapists, employee physicians, government agencies and more to help make the employees reach their potential in the job.

With a company that employs a variety of people with unique needs and limitations, what happens when production may suffer due to an employee needing to take some time off?

SEKRI has a plan for that as well.

“We have to make production, just like any other factory. We just go about it in a different way,” said Sanders.

There is a lot of cross-training within the company with many people trained in many different things, so if the need arises where somebody needs to step in for another employee, they can do that with ease.

On the production floor, a legally blind employee, Tracy Hobbs, shows her specially accommodated workstation. Hobbs has a special magnifier that looks very much like a computer monitor, that allows her to zoom in on the pieces of material she is responsible for sewing. The magnifier shows in great detail, every stitch of the fabric.

Hobbs also has a special pair of magnifying glasses she wears to aid her in her job.

“I love my job. I was on disability, and I sat home every day — day in and day out. I enjoy my job. It gives me somewhere to go and something to do,” said Hobbs.

“There is so many people out there like me who would like to have a job, but it’s like ‘I can’t do that or I can’t do this.’ They accommodate anybody. I want people to know there are companies out there that not only accommodate, but they understand and they have patience.”