MIDD-West Industries recognized by ERDC

Published 8:45 pm Friday, February 15, 2019

Thirty years ago, Pat Bonner, an employee at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, put a challenge to Kearney Waites, director of MIDD-West Industries, which employs people with disabilities.

“He came up with the concept that if we could do all we were doing in the workshop, we should be able to do jobs for ERDC,” Waites said. “I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

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Wednesday, Waites and some of the 43 MIDD-West workers who have kept ERDC’s more than 140 buildings clean, were honored with a ceremony marking the organization’s 30 years with ERDC.

ERDC commander Col. Ivan Beckman called MIDD-West’s time at the complex “an incredible service to ERDC and Waterways Experiment Station.

“It’s a joy every day to see these employees work. They always have a smile, they’re always very friendly; it’s a pleasure coming here everyday to work with them. They’ve done a great job here. It’s a local group here from Vicksburg; it’s important for us to have that connection to the community that we have here.

“We’d like to enhance that to stay more connected to Vicksburg and Warren County.”

Waites said the 30 years with ERDC have gone by quickly. “We’re looking forward to another 30 years,” he said.

“We started out with a much smaller crew, and as the base has grown, we have grown with them, adding personnel. The job opportunities for the disabled here are tremendous. ERDC has been a delight to serve, and their original willingness to let us prove ourselves as well as any other contractor has been terrific.”

MIDD-West, Waites said, is responsible for cleaning all the buildings in the complex.

“We do, literally, over 9 miles of hallways every day,” he said.

He said MIDD-West also operates the mailroom services at ERDC and the U.S. Corps of Engineers Vicksburg District. “We run two post offices,” he said.

Bruce Walters, a member of the MIDD-West crew, has been doing custodial work at ERDC for 27 years. He said he rotates every three months with other crew members and works in other buildings besides the headquarters building where Wednesday’s ceremony was held.

“It’s fine to do the work and learn other skills,” he said. “I’ve been here long term.”

He said he enjoys “all of it. I meet a bunch of people every day. I’ve kept a scrapbook, I’ve collected a lot of stuff.”

Waites said MIDD-West and the workers were proud to be honored, “But we’re proud every day.” And he is looking to grow with ERDC. “As ERDC expands, we will expand,” he said.

“So many people get up in the morning and they go to work and they consider it drudgery or a chore,” he said. “To this group, they consider work to be a privilege and they don’t take it lightly.”

One reason, he said, is because when the workers were younger, their parents were told by doctors and others that they would never work.

“I get a lot of grins out of proving a lot of people wrong with this group,” Waites said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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