Success Story
May 14, 2024

EDA-Funded Opportunity Center in KY Opens Opportunities for Every Ability

The Muhlenberg County Opportunity Center (MCOC) first opened its doors in 1966, about 25 years before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This non-profit organization in western Kentucky provides mentoring, vocational training, and jobs to adults with disabilities, serving as a critical connector to opportunities and services.

“Without a program like this, a lot of disabled adults would be sitting at home,” said Cindy Harper, Executive Director. “This gives them a purpose. If you ask any of our clients how they will spend their day, they’ll tell you that they are going to work – or to be with their family.”

Photo of teacher Barbara Oglesby with MCOC client Nick Kodatt.
Teacher Barbara Oglesby with MCOC client Nick Kodatt.

The center has proven to be such a success that on more than one occasion, it has outgrown its existing space for providing services and programming. By the early 2020s, it was time to expand and meet the needs of this community. And the EDA was exactly the kind of partner they needed.

The center operates a retail thrift store and donations center; a production center that sorts, packages, and assembles items for local businesses; and much more. Upon completion of their initial orientation with a social worker, many clients can find work opportunities within these operations.

“There was a vacant warehouse right next door, so we decided to renovate that facility,” said Amy Frogue, Director of Community and Economic Development at the Pennyrile Area Development District (PEADD). “We knew we would need assistance to support the redevelopment project, and having worked with EDA before, we decided to apply for additional federal funding.”

The timing of applying for support from EDA would be one of the most challenging issues. The center was not immune to the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts, closing its doors for close to a year. MCOC was one of many programs in Kentucky and across the U.S. applying for support, including CARES Act funding.

According to Frogue, the stars finally aligned in 2023. That September, the Economic Development Administration provided a $2.2 million award for building renovations at the 9,700-square-foot site. The grant was made possible through EDA’s Disaster Supplemental Funding after flooding impacted the state in 2023. A decline in the region’s coal industry was another factor in the issuance of the grant.

The award will also help MCOC continue its outreach efforts in Muhlenberg and surrounding counties. Employees work with local school systems to recruit prospective clients upon their graduation. MCOC also facilitates field trips to local businesses, giving its clients the opportunity to see how businesses operate and what jobs are available in their community.

Clients like Nick Kodatt, who first came to the center in 2023. He’s currently working with staff members, including teacher Barbara Oglesby, throughout the evaluation process. Once that has been completed, he hopes to join one of MCOC’s many industries. For now, however, the center is helping him to become more independent, teaching him cooking and other life skills.

“Everyone here is like a second family to me,” said Kodatt, who came to the center after moving to Kentucky last summer. “Anything we can do to help the program grow will only benefit our community.”

The redevelopment has just begun. The center recently executed the award documents and contracted with an architect who will redesign the facility. Once completed, MCOC will hire an additional thirty clients and thirty employees to help run the day-to-day operations.

“Growing up, many of our clients were bullied, which not only affected their emotional growth, but their education as well,” said Shawn Bruce, Assistant Executive Director of MCOC. “Here, everyone is accepted and everyone fits in. This funding will allow more people from surrounding counties to participate in our programs, giving them a real sense of purpose in the community.”

Photo of warehouse that will allow MCOC to expand its programs and help more disabled people join the workforce
Once renovated, this former warehouse will allow MCOC to expand its programs and help more disabled people join the workforce. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2025.

Additional funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant program and the Felix E. Martin, Jr. Foundation, which supports transformative ideas that build a more vibrant community and expands opportunities for the residents of Muhlenberg County.

To read about other EDA success stories, please visit


  • Disaster Recovery
  • Workforce Development