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NYSID News Blog

July 22, 2015

Long-Time Member Agency Profile: J.M. Murray Center, Inc.

Category: General — NYSID @ 2:59 pm

As NYSID continues its 40th anniversary celebration, we acknowledge some of our long-time member agencies for creating meaningful employment for New Yorkers with disabilities.

In the coming weeks, we’ll highlight these member agencies to demonstrate their human service support and economic impact within communities across New York State. We’ll look back at their early days, update their current success stories, and envision what the future holds.

Our first member agency is J.M. Murray Center, Inc. in Cortland.

In this 1968 photo, a worker in JM Murray's print shop places labels on a newsletter. JM Murray's work center employees printed and collated newsletters in preparation for mailing.

NYSID: When was your agency founded? How many people with disabilities were employed by your agency then and now?

JM Murray: We began as a work center to serve people who were unable to become successfully employed in the community. It was founded by community members and local business leaders because of the value work holds in the lives of all adults. The center remains focused on that same principle today. As Theodore Roosevelt said: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

JM Murray was founded in 1966 with just six trainees. In 2015, 150 trainees remain in the work center, down from 212. In 2014, 55 New Yorkers with disabilities worked 34,424 employment hours on Preferred Source contracts through JM Murray.

NYSID: In what ways is your agency the same as it was when it was founded? In what ways has it evolved?

JM Murray: Individuals in the work center are there to work. Additional services such as community employment services, Day and Community Habilitation, Family and Individual Support services, MSC and a whole array of services for people who are in receipt of or eligible for TANF have been developed over the years, but they are housed at a different campus.

Every individual in the work center is challenged to move into the community for employment at least twice annually, and all must have a vocational objective to address the obstacles that stand in their way. This practice is not new and certainly not in response to the recent legislation impacting the role that facility-based work plays in the array of services for people with disabilities; it has been the foundation of JM Murray from the very beginning. Its mission is to provide individualized services for people with disabilities or other barriers to independence.

JM Murray's operations, vocational and quality assurance staff collaborate on a plan in the work center

NYSID: What are some of the types of jobs that people with disabilities still perform today, as they did years ago? What are some of the newer jobs that people with disabilities perform? What are some of the jobs they no longer perform?

JM Murray: Much of the work the agency performed when it was founded in the late 1960s is no longer on the landscape of the community. Much of the manufacturing and factory work the agency participated in has long since moved out of the area, and large businesses such as Smith Corona and Rubbermaid have closed, along with many others.

To thwart this inevitability, JM Murray committed to developing businesses that would allow the agency to direct its future rather than respond to the demise of manufacturing in the area. As such, JM Murray developed and operated a furniture refurbishment and restoration business for more than 25 years that created jobs in the local community, as well as for people receiving day training services. That business was closed in 2000.

JM Murray has since partnered with industry leaders locally and along the East Coast to create niche markets that trainees could effectively add value to by providing the packaging, assembly and logistical support. The agency established a fully owned, for-profit subsidiary business (ESTI) to help create competitive employment opportunities for the community, as well as individuals with disabilities.

JM Murray began providing injection molding, liquid filling, assembly and packaging of dental products in the late 1990s and continues doing so as a 50 percent owner of OraLine, a for-profit corporation.

NYSID: The slogan for our 40th anniversary is “40 Years of Looking Forward.” What are some of the ways in which your agency has been looking forward and continues to do so?

JM Murray: The agency has been a work-first company since its inception and has continued to grow with a goal of not relying on government funding for its business ventures. Services dollars are dedicated to the support and training of individuals served. JM Murray is optimistic that our great state, as well as our country, will recognize the value of the services its integrated manufacturing business can play in the community and the lives of people with disabilities.

The ability to earn a paycheck by working independently at their own unique pace is a choice that must not be eliminated from people with disabilities in the future. Supports to assist individuals work is not a health care service and should not be funded as such.

NYSID: What are the keys to your agency’s longevity and success at creating jobs for people with disabilities? How important has your agency’s membership with NYSID been to your longevity and success?

JM Murray: One key to JM Murray’s success rests with the philosophy of its founding fathers –– that work is the most effective form of rehabilitation. All people benefit when they work. Enabling people to work helps the individual and their community because the more people earn, the more they spend and socialize in the community.


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