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Capitol Projects names building, announces fresh commitment

Capitol Projects names building, announces fresh commitment

June 13th, 2018 by Joe Gamm in News

Fr. Charles Pardee of St. Peter Catholic Church reads a prayer and asks for blessings on the workers and staff at the newly-named Kenneth Wagner Building at Capitol Projects. Capitol Projects named the building after Kenneth "Ken" Wagner, longtime director of the former Sheltered Workshop, now known as Capitol Projects. In addition to naming the building after him, they also celebrated 50 years as a facility where special needs people can work and earn money, make friends and build confidence and self-esteem.

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

Some things are changing at Capitol Projects.

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At its 50th anniversary open house Tuesday, people who stopped into the workshop got to see the sign over its entry, announcing the building at 2001 E. McCarty St. has a new name.

It's now known as the Kenneth Wagner Building. Wagner was Capitol Projects' executive director for more than 35 years before he retired. He died about two years ago.

Management at the sheltered workshop — which creates jobs for people with disabilities while providing services for Jefferson City-area businesses — also announced Tuesday it's installing a new shrink-wrap line to expand services it does for Scholastic.

Scholastic, one of the companies that originally contracted with Capitol Projects, has committed to expanding the workshop's service it uses for at least two years, Executive Director Tami Bock said.

The new packaging machine is scheduled to arrive Wednesday, Bock said.

"(Wagner) would be so proud," Bock said.

Amid the open house celebrants, staff with Stokes Electric Co. in Jefferson City were hard at work Tuesday running electric circuits to the location where the new machine will be placed.

While the sheltered workshop already employs about 100 people, more will be needed, Bock said. The nonprofit organization, which contracts with more than 25 local businesses, employs people from Jefferson City and the surrounding area who have mental and physical disabilities. Those wishing to learn more about the application process should call 573-634-3660.

In 1973, Lois Cook was one of the co-directors of a campaign to raise money for a new building for the shelter. The shelter had started with humble beginnings a couple of years before, in a rented space in Jefferson City's Millbottom area. Volunteers raised approximately $125,000 under Cook's leadership. Construction of the workshop's new building got underway when it received a matching grant of $77,000.

Cook returned to the site Tuesday to participate in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"This is overwhelming," she said. "It's just a reminder of the work these employees do. It's a healthy, happy environment."

Nearly 150 people were expected to attend the ceremony and open house. As many passed through the space, workers continued doing their jobs. Men and women on one line shrink-wrapped Betsy Lewin books together: "Giggle, Giggle, Quack," "Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type," and "Click, Click, Boo" were sealed together in plastic.

Butch Ruprecht, the Capitol Projects board president, said each visit to the site is refreshing.

"Every time I come out here, I'm renewed by the wonderful work ethic our employees had," he told a crowd gathered outside the building early in the morning.

That crowd represented the generous Jefferson City community, Bock said. She said the community as much as the organization's employees is responsible for Capitol Projects' success.

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Wagner was a young man who didn't know what direction his life should take when he returned from service in Vietnam, she said. He wanted to maybe coach or teach young people.

He took a job as a truck driver for the workshop. Wagner had been there about six years when the director at the time died in a car accident.

"When this fell into his lap, he embraced it," Bock said. "He may not have been a traditional coach, but he found his team here and he was a coach in a sense."

Wagner was a manager, leader and encourager, she said.

Mostly, he was a friend.

His widow, Joyce Wagner, said Kenny probably wouldn't have shown up for the ceremony.

"He always chose not to be in the limelight," Joyce said.

She said she remembered that the board was uncertain if he was old enough to run the nonprofit. At the time, he was 29.

However, she said, she is grateful they took the chance on him.

"I'm really proud that they named this building in his honor," she said.

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