The W.C. Wood Company of Ottawa, Ohio was a manufacturing plant that specialized in making freezers and other appliances. The company was forced to close its doors in 2009, but Whirlpool Corp. bought the plant and hired back many of its employees to make Upright Freezers, Under Counter Ice makers, and Hybrid Heat-Pump bases for ventless dryers under a variety of its brands, including Whirlpool, Amana, Maytag, KitchenAid, Gladiator and JennAir.
One of those former W.C. Wood employees is Sally Sutter, who is now CEO of Brookhill Industries, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)3 committed to serving individuals with developmental disabilities. “I was at Woods for 15 years,” says Sutter. “When they closed and Whirlpool took over, I ended up here at Brookhill, and I love it.”
We’re a transitional phase to get them from school to work and then out into the job field, but many enjoy this work for Whirlpool and would choose to stay here and do it each day.”
Sutter still has a connection with Whirlpool Corp.’s Ottawa Operations. “We have approximately 65 people who attend our ‘day habilitation/vocational habilitation’ facility every day,” she says. “Out of those, about 50 do work in sub-assembly for Whirlpool Ottawa.”
Some of that work involves folding cardboard pieces for parts kits. Additional workers are brought in to put the kits together. Other work includes packaging appliance handle kits, among other workflows. “That keeps a lot of individuals at our facility busy during the day, and they are paid for their work” says Sutter.
Sometimes friendly competitions help to keep these “off-site” workers engaged. “They love doing the work, and we try to challenge them to do their best and beat their daily production goals,” says Sutter. “They’re earning money and also having some fun at the same time. It’s very important for them. The sense of purpose it gives them is huge.”
Brookhill is classified as a vocational rehabilitation facility by the state.
“What we’re doing is coaching them and teaching them job skills so one day, they will be able to get a job out in the community. We’re not supposed to be the final stop for them. We’re a transitional phase to get them from school to work and then out into the job field, but many enjoy this work for Whirlpool and would choose to stay here and do it each day.”