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Edith Hayles, Director of North Mississippi Regional Center and Keith Tidwell, Quality Assurance Coordinator for DeSoto Industries, have forged a successful working partnership to provide disabled employees with meaningful work and provide local companies and industry with quality service.

Robert Long|DTT

DeSoto Industries and the North Mississippi Regional Center based in Oxford have formed a successful partnership in assisting the intellectually and developmentally disabled find meaningful work and help local industries and companies with production needs as well.

Edith M. Hayles, Director of the North Mississippi Regional Center in Oxford and Keith Tidwell, Quality Assurance Coordinator for DeSoto Industries, appeared before the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors on Monday to brief supervisors on the program which matches the needs of the disabled with area companies, including some Fortune 500 companies.

"The people we serve have intellectual and developmental disabilities," said Hayles. "Some require more support and some work independently. Some individuals have worked very successfully in community employment."

Hayles added that many companies can enjoy tax incentives from employing the disabled in a variety of capacious, from packaging products to mailing company information.

Located in Oxford, the North Mississippi Regional Center is one of six comprehensive regional centers in Mississippi. NMRC operates under the authority of the state Department of Mental Health and is licensed as an Intermediate Care Facility for Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

DeSoto Industries, located at 166 West South Street in Hernando, currently assists a workforce that increases with demand. Of their number, 14 employees are housed off-site at nearby Haven Homes on Mt. Pleasant Road.

The packaging facility stays humming year-round with special orders and work orders placed by clients which include Phillips Emergency Lighting in Collierville, Valvoline in Hernando, and a mail-out contract with the City of Hernando.

Mary Grady serves as director of Haven Homes. Michelle Houston is the director of DeSoto Industries and has served in that capacity for four years.

"We bring in subcontractors to work with local businesses and prepare them for jobs in the community," Tidwell said. He is the supervisor over product assembly and packing work at the Hernando facility.

DeSoto Industries and others in the 23-county service area have several high-profile clients.

"We've done work, and other places in the service area have done work for big-name clients like Caterpillar, Winchester Ammunition in Oxford, Mont's Furniture accessory company, and Coca-Cola in Lee County and Booneville," Tidwell said. "It's very important. We take our work very seriously. A lot of these larger companies depend on us. "Its very important that we keep up with the quality expected. A quality product is what our contractors need and deserve."

Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at rlong@desototimestribune.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252

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