In the mid 1960’s concerned citizens of Northern Michigan recognized a need for vocational services for individuals with disabilities in their community. In 1968 these citizens established North Eastern Michigan Rehabilitation Opportunity Center, Inc. (NEMROC), and hired their first Executive Director. The program was in operation a year later and started by serving three individuals with disabilities in a space rented from a local church, and has grown steadily since those humble beginnings.
Over the years NEMROC has worked with a variety of agencies and individuals to provide vocational services to those in need. In the early years the program had an emphasis of providing training and employment for individuals within the facility, and focused on helping those with developmental disabilities. Over this has expanded to include community placement and time training. Individuals who participate in the program reside in a four county area (Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Presque Isle) and to meet the needs of the community, services were expanded to assist individuals who had a wider variety of disabilities.
A constant focus on quality and program improvement evolved an early sawmill into a modern facility that includes a full basswood line that produces paint paddles, yardsticks, and rulers for the marketing industry, along with a kiln system for drying grade lumber and heat-treating both internal and externally produced pallets for international shipment. NEMROC also has a long-standing office chair mat line and offers the local community a variety of janitorial and courier services as way to fully provide for the needs of our 150 full and part time employees. With the benefit of these and other product lines, along with help from individuals, corporations, and various foundations, the physical facilities along with rehabilitation services have progressively grown.
The first sawmill was completed in 1971, and by 1974 production facilities and office complex were established at the current location. Since that time NEMROC has expanded the work opportunities for people with disabilities with a new onsite sawmill, six kilns, lumber storage facility, grading station, and a sawdust-burning boiler. This positively benefits the future of both their employees, and the larger community of Northern Michigan.
In the ensuing years, NEMROC has expanded its vocational rehabilitation programs in order to provide meaningful employment opportunities to people affected by impediments to employment. The populations served currently encompass the following: developmental disabilities, emotional illness, substance abuse, antisocial behaviors and physical limitations.
An integral part of the agency's day to day operations is its longstanding, successful partnerships with our human service providers in Northeast Michigan. Our rehabilitation partners include: Northeast Michigan Community Mental Health Authority, Michigan Rehabilitation Services, MidMichigan Medical Center - Alpena, Catholic Human Services, Michigan Works, Sunrise Center, Sunrise Mission, area courts, and the Department of Corrections.
On the state and national levels, NEMROC is an active role player in providing "best practices" in the vocational rehabilitation community. For four decades, the agency has provided services and products through Source America, formally NISH (National Industries for the Severely Handicapped). The agency has earned several major national awards and acknowledgements (via NISH) for its quality of service, leadership and creative advancements in the rehabilitation field. These awards include: The Management Excellence Award for the agency's Rehabilitation Coordinator, and Unsung Hero of the Year award for the agency's Marketing Coordinator, to name a few. On the state level, the agency is a longtime member in good standing of MARO (Michigan Association of Rehabilitation Organizations).