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HILLSVILLE — For Mike Bryson, the opportunity to work at Mount Rogers Industrial and Developmental Center (IDC) in Hillsville has meant getting his life back together, having a paycheck and overcoming issues related to past substance abuse.
Bryson, who has worked at the IDC since 2003, had previously tried a variety of community jobs but had difficulty maintaining employment due to his substance abuse issues.
Bryson credits his wife, Treva; the IDC; his church and the support of his substance abuse counselor — along with his own determination — in turning his life around. “I got tired of that lifestyle of drugs, alcohol and going to jail and today I am clean and sober.”
He is one of many success stories at Mount Rogers IDC, which for 36 years has offered employment opportunities for people with mental health and/or intellectual disabilities and substance abuse issues.
The IDC has government contracts, and IDC workers like Bryson make a variety of items for the U.S. military.
Bryson notes that, while he made mistakes in the past, he is not the person he was 25 years ago and is appreciative of the life he has today and the opportunity he has found at the IDC.
He is also a talented musician and artist and has had one of his drawings featured at the headquarters of NISH, a non-profit agency that finds employment opportunities for the disabled.
Bryson is typically involved in sewing various products through the AbilityOne Program, a federal initiative to help people who are blind or have other severe disabilities to find employment by working for non-profit agencies that sell products and/or services to the U.S. government.
As a member of AbilityOne, the IDC has manufactured various products for the military, including helmet covers, personal effects bags, men’s cotton handkerchiefs, sleeping shirts and cleaning cloths for the U.S. Navy.
During fiscal year 2011, the IDC began manufacturing the Advanced Combat Shirt (ACS), which is used by military personnel as a modular, fire-retardant combat uniform shirt that can be worn with body armor during combat operations, according to information from Mount Rogers. The ACS offers the same protection as other fire-retardant garments, but with increased breathability, allowing soldiers to be combat-ready for a longer period of time.
Bryson joins with many others with a disability in observing October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month, in an effort to bring awareness to issues related to disability and employment.
“The 2011 theme of ‘Profit by Investing in Workers with Disabilities’ serves to inform the public that workers with disabilities represent a highly skilled talent pool that can help employers in today’s global economy,” according to a Mount Rogers press release.
Mount Rogers IDC is one of several services operated by the Mount Rogers Community Services Board, a regional service to the citizens of Bland, Carroll, Grayson, Smyth and Wythe counties and the City of Galax.
• For more information on the IDC’s employment services, call 728-2106 or 236-8128. The IDC is located at 494 Industrial Park Drive in Hillsville.