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Rowan Vocational celebrates 50 years

By Wilson R. Cherry

For the Salisbury Post

Remaining in existence and thriving for 50 years is a major milestone for most businesses and organizations. On Sunday afternoon, Rowan Vocational Opportunities Inc. celebrated with an open house featuring tours, music, food, fun and games to commemorate the occasion.

RVO was founded in 1966 to provide opportunities for individuals with mental and physical disabilities to receive vocational training and prepare for gainful employment. More than 300 people came out to participate in the celebration.

RVO Executive Director Gary Yelton welcomed everyone and gave a brief historical review and journey through time, citing the original 18 consumers and five staff members who were initially enrolled at the workshop.

“Today’s gathering is a testament to the consistent relevancy and contribution to our community and their desire to see people with developmental and intellectual disabilities be afforded the opportunity to receive training for work, life skills and socialization that they might not have a chance to participate in otherwise,” said Yelton.

Yelton cited the growth and development of RVO as more than 200 consumers are being served by over 50 staff members. An additional site is located in Concord to serve both Cabarrus and Rowan counties.

“A big thank you goes out to our board of directors and many companies that have sent work to us over the years,” he said. “We will be eternally grateful for the major gift of $1 million so generously donated by the late philanthropist and community leader, Mr. Ralph Ketner. His gift enabled us to grow and increase our employment and training opportunities for our consumers.”

After the introduction of Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, she said, “This organization has had a great impact on enhancing the quality of life here in Salisbury and the surrounding area. Their facility is truly an asset and serves as a catalyst in assisting and supporting adults with disabilities.”

Yelton also recognized six life board members who were instrumental in the agency’s success over the years. They included John Nettles, Robert Stone, Jack Ramsey, Paul Bernhardt, Bob Loeblein and Tippie Miller. Terry Osborne, former RVO executive director, was in attendance and was recognized for his efforts in helping develop and grow programs at RVO.

Four employees, Gaynelle Redwine, Marcelene Watson, Bettye Cuthbertson and Curtis Williams, were recognized for outstanding service and commitment to RVO with a combined total of 131 years of service.

A special thank you was extended to F&M Bank, Fidelity Bank, Cheerwine Bottling Co. and Hood Hargett Insurance Agency for their assistance in sponsoring the event.

“The most fitting way to celebrate RVO’s heritage has been to bring together past and present supporters of our program to reminisce about where we have been and look ahead with optimism to where we are going,” Yelton concluded.

RVO is one of 16 non-profit United Way agencies designed to develop resources and assure their effective use for the delivery of needed human care services.

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