RAOC Mobile Crew – A Hidden Treasure

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There is a rambling, unassuming building on Sycamore Ave. in Buena Vista that houses a nonprofit organization that, unknown to many, offers a variety of services for the county’s residents. Rockbridge Area Occupational Center (RAOC), whose mission is to provide employment for adults with disabilities is, unfortunately, not as well- known as the more prominent non-profit organizations in the county but is no less vital and ambitious in the effort to both serve the employees who work for RAOC and to serve the community. One part of the RAOC work force is it’s mobile crew of six people who arrive at their work sites in a shiny, white RAOC van. They perform a variety of services that includes lawn care: delivering and spreading mulch, mowing, trimming, and tree removal. In addition, the mobile crew does janitorial services, light carpentry, interior/exterior painting and other maintenance chores. The executive director of RAOC, Tom Craft, states that “We have performed jobs for many homeowners and businesses and strive for complete customer satisfaction in pricing and performance. We are bonded and insured and are a bonafide contracting crew.”

On the first warm day after a stretch of wintry weather, the crew was on the job painting the exterior of the Blue Ridge Autism Center in Buena Vista The Administrative Director of the center, Patty Cook, stated that ‘the crew is diligent and are getting the job done.” She added that she was impressed with the level of ability and appreciated how RAOC emphasizes the strength of its employees to serve the community” The crew supervisor, Joe Collins, stated that the crew are excellent workers who enjoy their work and who take pleasure in doing a job well. Jaleel Strowbridge, one of the mobile crew, remarked that every day on the job is a good experience for him. That statement seems to sum up how all the 80 employees seem to feel about the work that they do for RAOC, whether its the mobile crew, the crew that works on assembly projects for industrial contracts, or the crew that builds sturdy, attractive outdoor furniture. RAOC, it seems, should no longer be a hidden treasure in Rockbridge County.

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