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Hampton Roads Community News

In the Community: Common Ground

By Ernest Lowery
Community Outreach Correspondent
New Journal and Guide

It was one of those cold winter afternoons leaning toward the conclusion of December. I was driving around town full of energy when my stomach began to growl. Since I was in no mood for cooking, I pointed my car in the direction of a neighborhood eatery (Golden Corral, to be specific) for lunch.

During my stay there, it was apparent that a group across from me was engaged in some type of holiday celebration…which is not unusual during this time of year. During the holiday season, there is something contagious about the observance of free-spirited people just having a good time. It just makes you feel good – doesn’t it?

Let me fast forward this story just a tad so I can make a little more sense about this. I had the pleasure of meeting Natalie Grayson, who is the owner and operator of mailing, assembling, copying, services (MACS ), located in Virginia Beach.

Natalie, I learned, had been a Chesapeake special education teacher, and her workers are her former students.

Special education students can stay in school up to the age of 22. Natalie had discovered a passion within to help her students – after graduating from high school – to find meaningful employment. She decided to create an after-school program for the young adults to help them extend their skills. This later turned into a summer program. And then into MACS in 1993.

One of the biggest challenges for her workers is arranging the parent scheduling to drop them off at work and pick them up because they are not allowed to drive and most of the parents work, as well.

MACS, which was founded with 17 employees, provides mailing assembly and coping to non-profit businesses for local and nationwide distribution. “Her family,” as she affectionately calls them, works daily from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.. Each day, MACS has a different project scheduled and each worker is assigned a specific task to complete.

“They are the most wonderful people to work with; they work hard, come to work every day and are dedicated to perform the best job possible. This Holiday Season we put in a lot of hours,” stated Natalie, “and today was a good day to celebrate.”

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Within nine months of establishing her business, Natalie and her team had outgrown her part time business and had moved it into a profitable range which influenced her to leave the school system and work MACS full time. Now, each year, they exchange gifts at Christmas time and vote on a location for lunch to celebrate their hard work.

As the group began to prepare to leave, putting on their coats and taking a last sip of drink, I was at the same stage. Now that my mouth was free of the last morsel of chilli, my curiosity was seeking the person whom I thought was in charge.

Pleased with the information received from Natalie, I went to her place of business and took a photo as parents were arriving to pick up their young adults. The business continues to grow and those who have special needs can feel safe, loved, have a job … and maybe someday get a chance to drive.

Well, you never know who you will meet in a diner. I’m glad I had the opportunity to meet these guys.

Happy New Year to you all. Do a good deed; say a kind word … this is the time. For information about MACS, call (757) 502-0331.

The word for today is:
Pragmatic
Check it! Use it!

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