In March 1967, the Blue Grass Association for Mental Retardation, Inc., (BGA) received a Public Health Service grant to begin an adult center for the mentally retarded. John Swan was the Executive Director of the BGA at the time. Tony Goetz, who later succeeded Swan as Executive Director, was hired as the Project Director of the new adult program. The program was named the Adult Day Care-Activity Program (ADC-AP). The ADC-AP was intended to provide day care services and recreational activities such as field trips, ceramics, and decoupage. Participants were not paid for their work and there was little emphasis placed on vocational development.
History of Employment Solutions
The ADC-AP received 25 referrals and accepted 18 with 14 in average daily attendance. The adult program was housed in the basement of the BGA Administration Building on the grounds of the Julius Marks property on Georgetown Street, a former TB sanitarium. The basement location of the ADC-P failed to pass a fire inspection in January, 1968, necessitating the search for an alternative location.
In 1969, the Fayette County government granted BGA a free fifty-year lease on the building it was occupying, contingent upon the renovation of one of the buildings within a year. An agreement with the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) provided federal funds which were matched with local funds through the Fiscal Court to renovate the next door building (the old Blue Grass School) for the adult program. In this agreement, BRS placed a counselor (Carolyn Wolff) in the facility and provided additional financial support through case service funds. By 1971, the renovation was complete and the program was renamed the Adult Training Center (ATC). The primary activities continued to be recreational with additional emphasis on grooming and self-help.
With the continued involvement of BRS, the adult program began to slowly evolve towards an emphasis on vocational development and training. At the encouragement of BRS, the Adult Training Center received a consultation visit in December, 1971, from Raymond Newnam Jr. of the Mental Retardation Training Institute in Butner, North Carolina.
Many changes were recommended by the consultant to promote an environment which would lead to the development of vocational skills. Newnam urged that sub-contract work become a primary tool in training. In addition, Newnam recommended that the ATC consider forming its own board of directors and ultimately to terminate its relationship with BGA, a parent-based advocacy organization.
By 1972, the ATC was serving 45 persons and structured its staffing pattern on a rehabilitation model. Several personnel changes occurred in 1972 with Russell Doumas becoming Director, and Bill Ryan became the first Coordinator of Work Adjustment Services.
In 1973, the program adopted the name, Metro Industrial Services (MIS). Sub-contracts provided a major source of income and provided clients vocational training and remunerative work. MIS was rapidly outgrowing its Georgetown Street facility.
In 1976, through the leadership of Carleton Scully, the next Executive Director of BGA, MIS received a 15- year loan from the Small Business Administration for construction of a new facility . An appropriate site was chosen on Brentwood Court in the Melbourne Industrial Park and construction was begun.
Governor Julian Carroll was the main speaker at the dedication of the new facility in April, 1977. Several hundred people attended the ceremony which marked a major turning point in services for adults with mental retardation in Lexington.
In 1982, after a period considerable internal conflict among the staff, Board of Directors and parents, Mr. Charles Fulner became the next Executive Director of BGA and Karen Busch, a long-time employee, was appointed as the director of MIS. In November of 1982, the BGA board voted forms the separate incorporation of MIS; an interim board was formed to guide the separation. With the spin-off the name of Metro Industrial Services was officially changed to Metro Industries, Inc.
From its inception as a separate corporation, Metro Industries experienced many transformations. Metro’s initial 1983 budget of $402,000 grew by 1988 to a budget in excess of $3.1 million. During this period Karen Busch, was retained by the new Board of Directors as Executive Director. A variety of new ventures and programs were initiated by the new corporation utilizing federal grants these included Projects Respect and Best, two school to work transition programs; Project Interact, which developed a commercial software package for rehabilitation facilities; and Fresh Approach, a food service training project. In the fall of 1987, Metro’s headquarters moved from the space it leased from BGA on Brentwood Court into a 22,000 square foot facility it purchased on 1084 Whipple Court. Also in 1987, Q-Box, a corrugated box manufacturing operation, was initiated. Both Q-Box and Fresh Approach were initially housed in separate, leased facilities: Q-Box in the Melbourne Plaza and Fresh Approach on 2nd Street.
Unfortunately, like many businesses Metro’s growth did not take place in a controlled manner. Large, ongoing operational deficits, which did not appear in monthly financial reports, lead to the accumulation of enormous liabilities and the near demise of the organization.
In 1989, Rick Christman, Executive Director of Metro’s old parent corporation, BGA, left BGA to assume the role of Metro’s Executive Director. Through a reorganization plan, the size of the staff was significantly reduced, debt payment terms were renegotiated, $50,000 in emergency funds were borrowed from BGA and Citizens Fidelity Bank, $100,000 in additional grant funds was awarded by the Bluegrass Regional Mental Health Mental Retardation Board, and over $20,000 of corporate and other private donations were received. In June of 1990, Q-Box and Fresh Approach were relocated to Whipple Court to further reduce operating costs. In March of 1992, an agreement was made with Metro’s largest creditor to reduce its debt obligation from $401,000 to $120,000 payable in $1,000 monthly payments over ten years. With these significant cutbacks and changes, Metro’s annual income had fallen below $1.4 million, but the organization was financially stable.
In 1992, through the efforts of Metro Board member Rep. Louie Mack, Metro obtained significant new state funds to develop supported employment services. With the expansion of supported employment services, which advocates community-based employment for all persons with disabilities, job placement took on much greater importance.
This growing emphasis on job placement and Metro’s expansion of its client base from a primary emphasis on persons with developmental disabilities to a more inclusive client base of all forms of disability, lead to the 1993 establishment of Bluegrass Career Services (BCS). BCS was located in the Bluegrass Commerce Center Building in downtown Lexington and serves as a base for Metro’s community-based employment services including supported employment placement, competitive employment placement and vocational assessment. Nearly all of the referrals to BCS came from the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, formerly BRS. As a consequence of these numerous community job placements, many of Metro’s former facility-based workers moved into supported employment settings throughout Lexington. By 1996 nearly 100 individuals were working in supported employment and receiving regular contact from Metro staff. An additional 25-50 persons were job-placed annually in competitive employment.
As many of these individuals left Whipple Court, they were replaced by other, much more severely disabled persons, many of who were sponsored by the Kentucky Department for Medicaid Services’ AIS/MR program. As of 1997 over 80 persons with disabilities continue to receive work-based services at Whipple Court on a daily basis. From 1991 onward, sales of both of the primary production divisions, Q-Box and Fresh Approach grew rapidly.
In 1994, Metro acquired the former Metro Meats building at 1057 Whipple Court that now houses the Fresh Approach operation. By 1997, with the expansion of both production sales and governmental income, Metro’s overall annual budget grew to nearly $5 million.
With the continued growth of community job placement and an expanded mission to serve persons with all forms of disability, Metro again determined to widen its mission to serve persons with all forms of significant employment barriers, including welfare dependency and homelessness. This decision, which was initially approved by the Board of Directors in 1995, led to a considerable planning effort to launch an occupational skills training program for welfare dependent or otherwise chronically unemployed adults. By 1997 significant funds had been secured to launch this much-anticipated project which is to be based on a San Jose-based training model known as the Center for Employment Training. Extensive and critical support in this endeavor was provided by Don Ball and Ball Homes. Other major contributors were Bank One, Kentucky Utilities, Lexington Fayette Urban County Government and the Knight Foundation. This new job training program, known as the Center for Training and Employment (CTE), opened late February, 1997 at 2350 Woodhill Drive. BCS was also relocated to Woodhill during this time. Three skill areas were initially offered : Automated Office Systems, Manufacturing Technology and Building Maintenance.
In September of 1997, Metro Industries changed its corporate name to Employment Solutions. A new corporate logo and various public relations materials were developed by Jordan-Chiles.
Employment Solutions Personnel (ESP), a temporary employment agency, opened in the Woodhill Plaza on March 10th. The purpose of ESP is to introduce people with limited work histories, or who are otherwise hard to job-place, into the workforce by utilizing the basic methodologies of the rapidly growing temporary staffing industry. In this manner, ESP allows businesses to try-out individuals on a short-term basis while they remain employees of ESP.
In February 1999 through a cooperative effort with Community Action Council, a 77-child day care/Head Start program known as the Woodhill Child Development Center was opened our BCS/CTE/ESP location on Woodhill Drive. The development of the Woodhill Child Development Center was also made possible through the support of Don Ball, as well as the allowance 8-years free rent through the Gibson Company.
The Gainesway Shopping Center, 1165 Centre Parkway, was purchased by Employment Solutions on October 25, 2000. The Divisions of Bluegrass Career Services, Center for Training and Employment and Employment Solutions Personnel relocated from Woodhill to the Gainesway Center in February of 2001. Following the relocation to the Gainesway Shopping Center, a 40,000 square foot lease by Cabinet for Families and Children was obtained. This led to a significant renovation of the property that was financed with a $3.1 Industrial Revenue bond that was issued the LFUCG. The CFC began occupancy in December 2001.
In April 2002 the Sauté Café was opened at Gainesway that also included the addition of a Culinary Arts training program. This addition was made possible by an “Earmark” grant from the US Department of Labor that was secured through the efforts of Congressman Ernie Fletcher. The Earmark grant also included an upgrade to the equipment in the AOS class and the addition of shipping and receiving training in the Manufacturing Technology class. On July 31, 2002 the name to the Gainesway Center was changed to Solutions Center. Congressman Fletcher was the guest speaker at the ceremony that recognized the name change.
In 2004 Employment Solutions received its candidacy status from the Council on Occupational Education and on July 1 ,2005 Employment Solutions was approved by the U.S. Department of Education to participate in Title IV student financial aid programs.
In December 31, 2005 the newly constructed Discount Dollar Store was opened for business in Solutions Centre, this operation also include a training program in Retail Sales Management.
In 2006, the Center for Training and Employment received a six-year full accreditation status from the Council on Occupational Education. Also in 2006 CTE was granted the ability to provide Pell Grants as part of its Title IV student financial aid package. Later that same year, the Center for Training and Employment changed its name to the College for Technical Education.
In 2005 Employment Solutions added One World to its programmatic offerings at Whipple Court. In 2007 Moving and Improving, a movement and exercise was also added, along with Reaching Further which emphasizes the community exploration and hobby development. In 2008 all three programs were combined within the Expressive Programs division.
In 2009 the Discount Market was discontinued and approximately one-half of the former space was devoted to Vibe. Vibe sells urban contemporary clothing and functions as a teaching lab for the Retail Management Program.
In 2009 Sunnyside and Secure Shredding Solutions were opened at 2428 Palumbo Drive. Sunnyside operates as an adult training program specially catering to people with minimal behavioral issues who desire a serene atmosphere with an emphasis on self-help activates.
Secure Shedding Solutions is a document destruction operation that employs people with disabilities and is operated through the QBox division. The equipment for SSS was secured through a special lease arrangement with NISH/AbilityOne.
In 2010 The County Couzins Day Care Center was purchased. Country Couzins (later changed to Campus Kids) is utilized as a lab setting for the Early Childhood Development program operated by CTE.
In 2010 construction began for the Medical Assistant program classroom that is to be co-located in the former Discount Market space along with Vibe. Funding assistance for the Medical Assistant program was provided by the Chase Foundation and Office for Vocational Rehabilitation.
In March 2011, Employment Solutions purchased the Lexington Beauty College which was moved to Centre Parkway and replaced Vibe and the Retail Management Program The new Cosmetology and Nails Technology Programs replaced the Retail Management program.
As of October 1, 2011 the former Employment Center is being renovated as the future home of the Medical Assistant program. After additional renovations the Cosmetology and Nails Technician programs will occupy the entire 1163 Centre Parkway building. The Early Childhood Education program began in November 2011.
Due to disappointing sales the Secure Shredding Solutions operation was discontinued in October 2012. The 90 Southport building was purchased in June 2012 and after renovations, the Sunnyside operation was moved to Southport. The building was also designed to house Life Works which began operations in May 2013. The initial service of Life Works are behavioral and other therapeutic supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities.
On March 6, 2012 Employment Solutions purchased the equipment of Motif Beauty School on Wainscott Avenue in Winchester Kentucky and began the operation of a cosmetology program as a campus extension of CTE. On October 2102 land was purchased on 2135 Bypass Road for the purpose building a school to replace the Wainscott location. The new building with a capacity for 40 plus students opened August 5, 2013.
Throughout 2012 and 2013 the Medicaid-funded services at Whipple Court and Southport continued to grow rapidly. A teaching kitchen known as Relish was added along with a wheel chair accessible urban garden behind the QBox building. Extensive growth also took place with integrated community outings in small groups and one-on-one, this division became known as Expressive and Wellness Programs.
As of 2017 the mission of Employment Solutions has been changed to the “promotion of personal and economic independence”
Sunnyside has been relocated to 3600 Appian Way in a building that was formerly the Kinder Care Day Care Center.
Life Works has added a successful form of residential services though the Medicaid Waiver known as Family Home Placement. Over 40 are being served in the FHP program at the beginning of 2018 and it continues to grow. With the relocation of Sunnyside, the 90 Southport property has been remodeled for the purpose of adding physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy services on site. A psychiatric clinic at Life Works is also very popular. Life Works’ Behavioral and Psychological Supports services have also grown considerably.
About 150 persons attend day programing at Whipple Court and Sunnyside combined. The Expressive and Wellness division has added many activities within the facility including drumming, yoga, dance, etc. ,and conducts over 2000 hours of outings each quarter. Both Fresh Approach and QBox have upgraded their work spaces.
The Community Works division that provides respite and one- on- one community experiences as well as respite and is very popular.
The number of persons with DDID who are served by Employment Solutions exceeds 350.
The College for Technical Education has ended its Lexington based Cosmetology program. The Cosmetology program in Winchester continues to be successful and it is hoped that enrollment will soon approach 50. A new program in Medical Billing and Coding is opened in October 2017 and is located in the former cosmetology building along with the Medical Assistant program. Because of declining enrollment it was decided to close CTE Food and Hospitality Program/Saute Café and rent out the former classroom and kitchen. A new tenant “Dress for Success” now occupies an open space previously used as additional classroom space. A 2016 accreditation review by the Council on Occupational Education found no deficiencies.
Bluegrass Career Services has successfully placed more OVR referrals into employment than any other organization in Kentucky for three consecutive years. BCS is also heavily involved with providing pre-employment to special education students through a service contract with OVR. As of the end of 2017, about 350 students are being served.