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Last original JobOne employee retires after 44 years

I wrote this story/news release about a famously long-serving JobOne employee.


A JobOne employee (left) wishes his former co-worker Jimmy Campbell a happy retirement.

These days, it’s uncommon for a worker to stay with the same employer for their entire career. But Wellington, Mo., resident James “Jimmy” Campbell did just that. He recently retired after nearly 44 years of service to JobOne and its predecessor organizations, IBS Industries and Jackson County Sheltered Workshop. Campbell was the last remaining employee from when the nonprofit opened its doors as a sheltered workshop for people with disabilities in September of 1969.

Campbell, age 64, has Down syndrome. Growing older has slowed his pace a bit, but he is as vibrant a character as ever. Campbell and his family members returned to JobOne in Independence, Mo., on May 3 for a retirement reception held in his honor.

Margaret Cook, Campbell’s aunt, initially brought him to JobOne in 1969 because she was determined to find him something useful to do. For more than four decades, he traveled from Wellington to Independence and back each weekday on a county-funded bus. Campbell worked steadily on subcontracting jobs at JobOne, assembling a variety of kits for business customers. He is fondly remembered for his ability to make people laugh, sneaking up on staff members, and forgetting where he’d stashed something.

A music lover and collector of records, Campbell grew up pretending to conduct the orchestra on “The Lawrence Welk Show.” “If I was in my office, I knew it was time to start the day because he came in playing his harmonica off the bus,” said JobOne Vice President of Human Resources Kelly Logan.

Rep. Glen Kolkmeyer, who represents Jackson, Johnson and Lafayette counties, has known Jimmy Campbell his entire life. At Campbell’s reception, he presented a resolution from the Missouri House of Representatives honoring his decades of dedicated service. People with disabilities, like Campbell, are often reliable and dependable workers, with some of the highest retention rates of any employee group.

“You would know when payday was because…anybody that was driving down the street, he would show them his paycheck,” remembered Kolkmeyer. “He was just so proud of that paycheck.”

Organizations like JobOne provide adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities with opportunities to be productive, learn useful skills, engage with peers in a work setting, and earn money. But the impacts can extend even farther. Because Jimmy Campbell had somewhere to go each day, his mother was able to make a living cutting hair in Wellington.

Corky Campbell says she knows her son misses going to work. “He gets ready quite often in the morning to come to the workshop.”

Fifty years ago, Missourian Frank Ackerman became concerned about what the future held for his son with a disability after he finished school. Ackerman began a campaign to establish a vocational program in Missouri. This campaign resulted in the passage of Senate Bill 52 in 1965, which authorized nonprofits to start sheltered workshops for people like his son and Jimmy Campbell.

“There is a place for everyone to contribute to society in the world we live in,” said JobOne Board Chair Mark Simcosky. “Jimmy and the other nearly 300 employees that JobOne supports are evidence of that. And we are trying to do everything we can to continue to create opportunities all up and down the spectrum for people to have a fruitful life, enjoyable life, and contribute much the way Jimmy has.”

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