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GO Center expanding with new jobs, opportunities

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By Kacie Goode

Hazel Cothern hopes to one day get a job out in the community. It’s a goal that requires certain skills, which she is learning at the Guthrie Opportunity Center.

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“I didn’t think I’d learn how to put the sealers on, but I can do just about any of it,” Cothern said last week while working on the new ReBart Bottling line at the center.

The line opened for production in September, and has provided about a dozen jobs for GO Center participants, who are learning to bottle bitters and other products.

The work differs from other jobs at the GO Center, which include managing a recycling center and assembling parts for various factories and community partners.

“I like trying different things,” said Pam Gilpin, who sets the pace for the bottling line. Gilpin has been a GO Center participant for nearly 43 years, and has done a variety of jobs while there. When the chance came to participate in something new, she jumped on it.

The GO Center, home of Nelson County Industries, provides work, life and social skill development for many adults in Nelson County with a special need. Currently, about five dozen participants come to work at the center each day, but its partnership with Communicare serves dozens more in other ways.

Renea Bartoszek, a GO Center Foundation board member, said new opportunities such as the line allow the participants to try out different jobs and find a good fit. For example, trial and error revealed Gilpin worked best at the start of the line rather than the end.

Gilpin and Cothern were joined Wednesday by coworkers Joey Gary, Erica Goode and Diane Shields, who have each discovered what spot works best for them.

“I like doing the sealers,” said Shields, a GO Center participant for 14 years, adding that she enjoys being able to socialize while she works.

“When we work, we work as a team, not just as an individual,” Cothern said.

Goode said she enjoyed the quietness of the line work, the change of scenery from other jobs, and also how well everyone worked together.

Gary said he best liked doing the caps for the line, but had tried some of the other positions, too.

Megan Wooldridge, of Communicare, is on-hand to help supervise, inspect the product and also provide assistance where needed.

“She keeps us rolling,” Bartoszek said of Wooldridge.

The bottling line was established through ReBart Bottling Company, which is owned by Renea and husband Michael “Bart” Bartoszek. Son Adam, a veteran of the Marine Corps, manages the line when he’s not at school.

ReBart was inspired to introduce the new job after seeing a need for more ways to engage GO Center participants, build new skills and help them earn a paycheck.

“We wanted to create jobs for the individuals,” Bart said, adding that they hope to increase the number of positions in the future. “Just because they don’t work out in one spot, doesn’t mean they can’t work here. We’ll find a spot for them.”

The participants, in good fun, give Bart a hard time when he falls behind in production. But it shows him how seriously they take their jobs.

“They are the hardest working bunch of individuals I’ve seen,” Bart said. “I’d put them up against anybody.”

Providing new opportunities for the participants — and real-world job training — is important on a personal level for Renea, whose son Jacob has been working at the GO Center for the past few years.

“This building makes Jacob’s future brighter,” she said, adding that it’s also helped with his social skills. “It allows him and his friends to have such a bright future and that’s all any parent wants.”

In addition to the bottling line, other new projects have kicked off at the Guthrie Opportunity Center this year. On Monday, the center had its first production day of packaging sugars and spices. A special room, as part of a recent remodel, was made into the new workspace.

The center is also looking to improve its outreach in the community for its On-The-Go Foods department, a food service area that opened last year.

Executive Director Cindy Hutchins said the center received a $15,000 matching grant from the Kentucky Colonels to help pay for a new delivery van, which she hopes will increase opportunities for the service.

While the center has expanded in jobs, its members are always looking for more community businesses and leaders to get on board.

“We are always on the lookout for new opportunities,” Bart said. “We want to keep finding more jobs for these guys.”

The Bartoszeks encourage any business leaders or other officials interested in providing future opportunities through the GO Center to contact Renea at (502) 264-3508 or at fambarco@aol.com. Find more information on the GO Center at www.guthrieopportunitycenter.org.