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Friday, March 01, 2013 9:44 PM

COF touted as consumer, community asset

By CRYSTAL HERBER, Herald Staff Writer

COF might stand for Coffey, Osage and Franklin counties, but to the more than 200 people who rely on COF’s service, it really means “Control Our Future,” Chester Beavers said.

Beavers, the business liaison for COF Training Services, Inc., was the keynote speaker at this month’s First Friday Forum at Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa. Before beginning his remarks Friday, Beavers polled the audience of about 30 community members and leaders about whether they know someone in the COF community of skilled laborers.

More than half in attendance raised their hands.

“That’s what we’re doing and what we’re changing to be able to control our future in Franklin County, Osage County and Coffey County,” Beavers said of the organization.

COF Training Services is a nonprofit social services organization, founded in 1968, that serves people who are developmentally disabled. With manufacturing facilities in Ottawa, 1516 Davis Road, and Burlington, “consumers” with mental retardation, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Down’s syndrome and autism are given the opportunity to have a job and earn their own living.

In the past 12 years, members of the COF community have packaged and shipped medical parts, assembled breathing devices, packaged school and office supplies and assembled oxygen masks for passenger airliners, according to COF.

In addition to the manufacturing aspect of the organization, COF provides a day program, residential and targeted case management services to its 248 members, Beavers said.

As a nonprofit organization, COF relies almost exclusively on Medicaid funding, Beavers said. Recent cuts of $1.5 million to the Medicaid program have forced the organization to be creative to save funds, including eliminating four departments and some staff members

“We believe that Medicaid funding for organizations like COF is not sustainable,” Beavers said. “There’s going to be additional things that come down to us, we’re going to have to make some significant changes.”

The organization also accepts donations from private donors through its dedicated volunteer group, the Friends of COF. Anyone who would like to contribute to COF can do so by calling (877) 990-5035 or visiting

The organization, Beavers said, is looking at its entire operation to determine where it can become more efficient to combat the decrease in funding.

“You look at how we’re completing projects. You look at how we’re buying our supplies. You look at how we’re buying food,” Beavers said.

The organization also is aggressively pursuing additional projects for the COF workers to work on, Beavers said, which keeps the workers busy and allows the organization to prosper.

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