By Bill Rosenberger
The Herald-DispatchLESAGE -- If you spent some time at a West Virginia state park, you probably bought a bottled water that came from Cabell County.More specifically, if it's labeled with "West Virginia State Parks & Forests,'' then it was bottled by LeSage Natural at Green Acres Regional Center.
Green Acres serves developmentally disabled adults from Cabell and Mason counties, with several employed to fill 20-ounce bottles and one-, three- and five-gallon jugs that are distributed both locally and statewide.The water bottling operation dates back to the 1980s with water from a well that is located on the property, said Devin Sloan, director of Programs and Facilities for Green Acres.He said they've made significant upgrades at the small plant, including a new filtration system and larger holding tanks that have allowed them to fill 200,000 20-ounce bottles since last August.In addition, Sloan said they've worked to improve customer service, admitting to becoming lax because the water had really sold itself. It was voted the World's Best Water in the 2005 Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting event.
In addition to the state parks contract, LeSage Natural also is distributed by a similar adult disability center in Nicholas County. They also have local contracts with the Cabell County Courthouse, Cabell Huntington Hospital, St. Mary's Medical Center, the West Virginia Division of Highways, Lakin Hospital in Mason County and Riviera Golf and Country Club."This is our heart,'' Sloan said of the water bottling plant, which averages $30,000 a month in revenue. "It supports the whole facility.''Leslie Christian, who manages LeSage Natural, said 10 clients work there alongside staff members. She and Sloan said they are extremely dependable and never miss a day of work."They love their job,'' Christian said.Sloan said they have a new bottling machine that needs to be installed. For now, the clients, fill, cap, label and box it all. And he doesn't foresee the new technology taking any jobs. Instead, he sees it helping them secure more contracts and hiring additional clients."These are quality jobs that anyone would be proud to have,'' Sloan said. "Quality jobs and not just something to do.'Green Acres also has clients who work in its greenhouse during the spring and winter, and it has a mowing contract with the Huntington Housing Authority.
Green Acres Regional Center also is supported by tax levy money through the Cabell County Commission. It is located at 7830 Ohio River Road, Lesage. For information about LeSage Natural or to order a watering station for your business or organization, call 304-762-2522.