Mayor Greg Crowder, with support from Hillsville Town Council and the Twin County Chamber of Commerce, issued a proclamation stating his opposition to the closing of the Southwest Virginia Training Center during the Oct. 8 council meeting.
Crowder is planning an offensive against the closure of the training center in an effort to prevent what he considers both a humanitarian and economic disaster. The center, which employs 483 people and has 170 residents, is scheduled to be closed by June 30, 2018.
“The closure of the center will be devastating to our community,” says Crowder. “We’re going to start approaching the elected representatives on the state level. We will go all the way to the governor with our concerns.”
Since many of the residents have been at the center for most of their lives, Crowder thinks the move to community-based homes could prove to be traumatic for them.
“So many residents won’t be able to exist in a normal setting. Although there are many successes, there have been horrifying results. I’m real concerned about the treatment residents will receive (in community-based homes). Residents won’t get as good of care in homes as they do at the center,” he says.
The other factor that disturbs Crowder is the loss of jobs.
“There are so many people 50 years of age or older who work at the center. It’s hard to find a new job at that age,” he says.
Judy Brannock, executive director of the Twin County Chamber of Commerce, says Crowder has the chamber’s full support in this endeavor.
“I think it’s sad and certainly a shame about the closure,” says Brannock. “It affects us in two ways. One, this region has had to fight to get jobs and fight to keep jobs; and two, the humane aspect.”
“We need the jobs. Some of those people have worked at the center for 20 years or longer and now we’re going to put them in the unemployment line. This will be detrimental to the area, as a whole.”
As for the residents, Brannock says, “I’m a mother and grandmother and if I had a special needs child, I would want to have the best care available, and I think the center does that. They’re teaching them to be a part of the community, and I think they do an excellent job.”