Written by Courtney Rockwell
It’s been 20 years now since the CopperTree Store and workshop first opened its doors in October, 1995. During the 1980’s, Martha Lloyd Community Services, (MLCS) started its prevocational operations with the Memorial Workshop, which offered employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities. At the workshop these individuals would assemble nuts and bolts, bag bulk food and make gift baskets.
As time went on, and the workshop continued to grow, Martha Lloyd expanded its program and opened the Brown House Workshop and Store in 1993. It was here that individuals delivered ice, pre-measured Era Detergent for MLCS residential homes, copied papers, practiced folding and stuffing envelopes, and made wishing stars from veneer strips in partnership with Oak Hill Veneer in Troy, PA. It wasn’t long before the vocational program eventually outgrew both of their buildings, leading to the development of the CopperTree Workshop and Store.
“The CopperTree Vocational Training and Work Center is committed to the belief that persons with Intellectual Disabilities are contributing members of society” (MLCS, 2015). The CopperTree Store is an integral part of this program providing participants with an opportunity to experience a retail setting. Workers assist in the store and also participate in making products that are being sold.
Throughout the years, individuals employed by the CopperTree have been responsible for a number of different jobs. Some of the earlier jobs consisted of working at a piece rate for Paper Magic, creating lines of products for Civil War reenactors, and developing Martha’s Good Scents (lotion and soap). They were also contracted by PennDOT to plane, bundle, and ship survey stakes to various sites throughout the state, as well as operate and manage four photo centers (2002-2015).
Currently, the CopperTree provides a number of jobs for individuals who work there. Some of the services include creating lines of handmade greeting cards and Christmas cards, designing and making jewelry, delivering ice to local businesses in the community, copying and faxing, and making/customizing gift baskets. There are a number of businesses throughout the area who support the CopperTree workshop by contracting with them for various jobs. Some of the most current jobs include sorting colored tiles for Metamora located in Elkland, PA; packaging fire logs for the Fire Log Company, Ulster, PA; and sewing poly bags used to hold sand for PennDOT. The CopperTree also gets in bees wax and uses that to make Bees wax candles and lip balms which are sold in their store. Delivering ice, making/customizing gift baskets, copying and faxing have been services provided by the CopperTree for well over 20 years.
Shelley Walcheski and Becky Van Alstine, 30+ year employees of Martha Lloyd Community Services, were both involved with helping the CopperTree get started. Looking back to October of ’95, some of the popular items sold from the CopperTree Store included apple themed gift items, baskets, sponge ware pottery and dried flower arrangements. Popular colors were navy and mauve.
The CopperTree offers so much more than just prevocational services and a store; it provides Home and Community Habilitation/Volunteering Services, Vocational Assessments/OVR (Office of Vocational Rehab), Transitional Work Services, Job Coaching, Supportive Employment, on-site, and community vocational experiences to a number of individuals.
The CopperTree also enjoys hosting a number of special events throughout the year including painting classes, Ladies’ night out, visits from the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, a Mother’s Day Sale, a Holiday Open House, Shop Local Day, and a Hometown Christmas event. Shelley and Becky stated how much they value their customers; many of whom have been loyal for the twenty plus years they have been here and in the other areas. “We wouldn’t be here celebrating our twenty years without our wonderful customers (friends), we greatly appreciate them,” they said.
In honor of their 20th anniversary, the CopperTree will be holding a sale on October 15th, 16th and 17th. There will be a door prize drawing, a small gift for each customer, and refreshments; please take a minute to stop on by, and wish them well for the next 20 years.