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50th Anniversary

Where It All Began

January 5, 2023

In 1973, the Reno County Occupational Center opened its doors and the late Maurice Cummings was hired as their first Chief Executive Officer. “We began TECH with five clients, working with area businesses to contract out special tasks that each person was able to do. Not only were the clients working on the specific job at hand, but they were learning lifelong skills – skills that we had hoped would be transferrable when they moved on to a full-time job in the community,” says Cummings.

Hear the Story of How TECH Got Started From the Late Maurice Cummings

The TECH Board of Directors were going through uncharted territory, paving the way not only for structure of an organization like TECH, but also had to determine funding sources for the services they were providing. Cummings said, “We spent a lot of time developing policy and procedure on how we were going to run the facility. This was the premise for our programs, payroll and business model. We also worked hard to develop relationships with the state department, including Kansas Social Services and developing a coalition of agencies locally. The idea was that if an individual had a need for services, we could address it as a whole. And finally, we spent time developing a fundraising plan. The Civitan Club was the primary funder at that time and have continued to be strong partners for TECH.”

Maurice said that they were overwhelmed by the support from the community of their program. The community embraced the work that they were doing. The work program saw very early success, including three of the original five clients served securing full-time positions at local businesses in the community. Cummings attributes this success not only to the board of directors, but also staff members such as Larry Cupps who helped get the program up and running. The team that Maurice was surrounded with, quickly saw another need in the community for people with disabilities that were graduating from high school; residential housing. Three years after opening the doors, the Reno County Occupational Center began focusing on providing residential services to the people they served.

“We wanted to be in a neighborhood. RCOC was the second facility in the state that had a residential program. Parents were very cautious and really took a leap of faith so that their sons or daughters could live in the community. Our job was to provide as much security and assurance as we could. We worked hard at that,” says Maurice. 45 years later, TECH now provides services to over 210 people in Reno County.

Looking back, Cummings said he doesn’t know what he is more proud of; the growth of the clients or the growth of the staff. “We had so many great people that worked for us. People who went on to get degrees in social work and hold jobs at the state and even national level.” Maurice went on to talk about the people he served, People with disabilities have the right to be disabled. We shouldn’t try to put them into a hole that they don’t fit in.” TECH would not be where it is today if it weren’t for the 26 years of leadership under Maurice Cummings and his vision for the life people with disabilities in our community should have the opportunity to live. Thank you to Maurice and the parent coalition group for identifying a need in our community and coming together to facilitate progress.

Originally published in 2019 TECH Annual Report