The Civitan Club of Wheeling founded the Civitan Sheltered Workshop in the spring of 1967 to serve individuals with disabilities. From its inception the agency strived to provide quality vocational services to citizens of the local community with disabilities.
In the beginning, the agency was housed in the former Jefferson School, located at 14th and McColloch Streets in Wheeling. The school had previously been vacated by the local school board. While the facility was provided rent-free, virtually no maintenance had been done on the building and it was in serious disrepair. The facility had also suffered two fires. It was financially impossible to bring the building into compliance with the fire code, building codes, OSHA requirements, and accessibility requirements on even a basic level.
Through the strong and unwavering support of three key men, and devoted Civitans, the program survived its first 11 years of existence. Wesley Manley, Andrew Chison and Richard Slauer gave freely and unselfishly of their time and efforts, holding a fledgling agency together with mere threads. The continued presence of WATCH in the local community is a testament to the dedication of its early supporters.
WATCH was born of the ongoing efforts of the Civitan Club of Wheeling to improve and expand the agency. The Sheltered Workshop Committee and the special Site Selection Committee (chaired by Reverend Ron Riggs) explored the optimum way to house a progressive program for individuals with cognitive and physical disabilities. After significant research and review, the Civitan Club of Wheeling voted to relocate the agency to North Wheeling, upgrade the programming, and to amend the constitution, articles of incorporation and by-laws to create the Wheeling Area Training Center for the Handicapped, Inc. in 1977.
The agency continued to operate as a private, free-standing non-profit corporation until 1995 when financial and programmatic demands led to the relationship with Russell Nesbitt Services, Inc. Russell Nesbitt Services provides management and staffing to WATCH under a management agreement. This arrangement has allowed for the continued growth and expansion that has led to the agency as it exists today.
The agency's move in 1996 to its current location at 26th and Main Streets, Wheeling, facilitated its most recent metamorphosis to a modern, comfortable, and efficient place of business. Recently, with the help of the Civitan Club, WATCH installed a new flood resistant, permeable flooring that has not only improved the appearance, but also offers a level of shock absorption that eases the stress of working on a concrete floor all day.
The employees and sponsors of the agency embrace the inalienable right of all individuals with disabilities to achieve their fullest life potential including social, residential and vocational potential according to their unique abilities, interests, and needs.
The purpose of the agency is to provide training, employment, social opportunities and work adjustment for the individuals with disabilities it serves. The goal is to enable the individuals to become productive, fulfilled citizens through the attainment of their individual psychological, sociological, physical and economic desires.
The Civitan Club of Wheeling continues its public and financial support of the WATCH program.