In its heyday, Northeast Career Planning's Menands offices packaged 18,000 Nerf footballs a day.
They were shipped out to Northeast stores. It was the same for several General Electric products, Beech-Nut foods and Mattel merchandise.
Many have attributed the agency's success to one man, 35-year employee and 25-year executive director William Norton.
On Friday, Jan. 4, Norton retired from his post. Countless workers called consumers at the Menands warehouse -- came to say goodbye. A half hour later they were all back at work.
Norton headed NCP, a 53-year-old nonprofit organization that helps place people with disabilities in jobs, and helps recovering drug addicts and alcoholics get back to work.
When Norton, 67, first started the operation, it was called The Workshop. The name changed when Norton started the push to get people good work in the community rather than just in-house.
Under his tenure, thousands have joined, or remained in, the workforce, bringing the once $300,000 operating budget up to $8 million and putting anywhere from 400 to 500 people a year back on track and back to work.
Initially it was a lot more work trying to build this place. The whole philosophy changed in rehab. It changed to community placement get 'em working," said Norton.
NCP at one time placed about 500 people a year, he said.
Now, although the numbers are down slightly, the rate of pay is higher for many.
Every day, nearly 120 workers pile into one of two of the Menands production warehouses where workers package goods for delivery. When the operation first started in the 1950s, the site was the largest warehouse outside of New York City, but outsourcing has taken its toll on NCP.
Norton and his staff's response was to push harder on communities from Hudson in the south to Glens Falls in the north, setting up satellite offices to not only provide work out of the Menands offices but within the community workforce.