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TRICO events mark 50th year

KINGSFORD—This month marks a significant milestone for TRICO Opportunities in the communities it serves - 50 years as a not-for-profit organization assisting disabled persons in preparing for, finding and maintaining meaningful work.
    TRICO will celebrate this milestone with a series of events, both in Iron County and in Dickinson County. On Thursday, Sept. 13, the public is invited to attend an open house from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at TRICO’s Kingsford location.
    Later that day, TRICO is co-sponsoring an Iron County Business After Hours event from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Paint River Landing. Tickets are required.
    On Friday, Sept. 14, TRICO will close its 50th anniversary celebration by coordinating a “Take your Legislator to Work Day” event at McDonald’s in Iron Mountain beginning at 1 p.m.
    In preparation for these events, TRICO Executive Director Christine Kruppstadt gave a synopsis of the organization’s history and mission.
    On Sept. 16, 1968, a group of local parents and concerned citizens realized their vision and TRICO Opportunities, Inc. was established as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to offering work activities, skill building, job training, and employment for disabled persons in the Dickinson, Iron, and Florence tri-county area, with later ex-
pansion into serving northern Marinette County.
    Strong partnerships for delivering services have since been forged with TRICO’s primary referral sponsors, including local community mental health agency (Northpointe Behavioral Healthcare System,) Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS) of Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services, and with the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) of Wisconsin’s Department of Workforce Development.  
    Governed then (and still) by a volunteer board of directors, TRICO has grown from its humble beginnings in the basement of a church on Brown Street in Iron Mountain to its current (nearly) 76,000 square feet administrative, recycling, and manufacturing facilities on Hooper Street in Kingsford, and a thriving satellite operation in Iron County.   
    All through these 50 years of service, TRICO’s mission has been unchanged – its work continues to remove barriers to employment for those with disabilities by remaining centered on maximizing abilities so that program participants become as self-reliant and self-supporting as possible.
    “By harnessing all available resources, and by working closely with sponsoring agencies, community employers, schools, and other community partners, TRICO’s exceptional staff delivers vocational rehabilitation and support services in a professional manner that treats all persons with dignity and respect,” Kruppstadt said in a press release. “In each of the past four years, TRICO has assisted nearly 200 individuals with skill-building for employment, job training on-site and in community-based locations as part of enclaves and mobile work crews, ‘hands-on’ training and job placements for area high school and Dickinson-Iron Intermediate School District students, and with job development activities designed to move to program participants into long-term, competitive, integrated, community-based employment.”   
    Kruppstadt said TRICO does not receive federal or state funding for its operations.
    “We never have, short of some federal monies to assist with vehicle purchases and transportation services to accomplish our work with disabled persons. Our operating revenue is derived primarily from fee-for-service contracts, sales of TRICO products, and private donations.  
    Work at and through placement with TRICO includes facility-based employment doing recycling, confidential document destruction, TRI-compost bagging and sales, and assembly/kitting projects for local manufacturers.  

    “Tried and true TRICO products like painted and stained routed wooden signs are still produced, as are the wooden pallets, stakes, and shipping containers manufactured in our commercial wood products manufacturing facility,” Kruppstadt said. “TRICO also produces wooden smoke grenade boxes for the United States military and takes great pride in our status as a primary contractor for the government for over 30 years.”
    Community-based work through TRICO includes general cleaning services for local businesses and agencies, lawn care and horticultural services, and production work for regional manufacturers.  
    Kruppstadt said that despite TRICO’s viability and long history of success and service to its communities, there continue to be obstacles and challenges to fulfilling its mission of removing barriers to employment for those with disabilities.  

    “Ever-shrinking funding for our referral partners despite recent sweeping federal and state legislative changes that impact the scope of our of our work, restrictive interpretation and application of regulatory language affecting the delivery of and payment for our services, as well as the challenges of remaining competitive as an employer and a non-profit agency in the face of labor and revenue shortages, have required that TRICO make massive shifts in its organizational structure and modes of delivering services.
    “What has not changed, however, is TRICO’s commitment to provide the range of services, opportunities, and products we always have, at the level of quality and effectiveness we always have, and with an eye to continual improvements in our efficiencies that will ensure we remain competitive.”

    For further information about TRICO, referrals, or about any of the 50th anniversary celebration events, contact Kruppstadt at 906-774-5718.