The Center offers contract services to private sector industries and government agencies and gives those with disabilities and at-risk individuals a chance for work-related training and/or employment opportunities. It serves Calhoun, Cleburne, Clay, Talladega, Coosa and Randolph counties. Almaroad oversees at least 125 persons. At times that number has risen to 250, depending on the Center’s various contracts.
Almaroad has successfully guided the Center’s contracts, services offerings and budget growth from $1.2 million in 1987 to its current financial position of over $5 million annually. He has been instrumental in increasing the Center’s business with local industries and Anniston Army Depot. He helped acquire service contracts in the areas of janitorial services, laundry services, cemetery maintenance and administrative contracts.
Wages paid to persons with disabilities participating in the Center’s work programs in 2011 was $1.7 million. During the past 10 years, the Center has placed 1,499 persons with disabilities in integrated employment throughout the counties served by the Center.
Over the years, Almaroad has been recognized for his many contributions to the Center and his community. He is a graduate of Leadership Calhoun County, was selected as the Center’s Employee of the Year in 2000 and received the AARF Rehabilitation Professional Award in 2005 and 2012.
“I’ve enjoyed my job immensely, but there are other things I’d like to do while I’m still young enough to do them,” says Almaroad, 60. “When the tornadoes hit here last year, we had people come from all over to help us. They didn’t even know us. I want to do that. I want to offer my time to help others.”
Almaroad says he feels that he and his family have been blessed and he wants to give back. “I’ve always thought I needed to give back,” he says. “My daddy always taught us that. And I feel like I still have plenty of time to do it.”
Retirement will be bittersweet for Almaroad.
“I’ll be leaving a great staff as well as a wonderful board of directors who has allowed me to do my job and been very supportive,” he says. “My administrative assistant Nancy Young has been with me since I’ve been at the Center. I’ve met and become friends with so many good people from the different companies we do business with.”
Almaroad says he never tired of the day-to-day challenges that came with his job.
“There’s nothing like knowing you have an impact on someone’s life,” he says. Just watching people go from drugs and alcohol to living a productive life is wonderful. To see them change their lives, go out and get jobs, maybe marry and become successful is reward enough for me.”
Almaroad says the one thing that makes a good day even better is when someone returns to the Center to thank him and his staff for helping them get through a difficult time. “Maybe something you said or did totally changed their lives,” he said. “And that’s a good feeling.”
Joe Helm, Assistant Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, remembers when the Center’s major fan-brace assembly contract was moved to China.
“I personally remember Mike saying that he would make every effort to replace that contract with work that would not be dependent on others but would be controlled by the Center and its ability to market and produce a viable product,” says Helm. “This thinking and Mike’s business expertise led to the establishment of OC Printing & Signs in 2007 which has proven to meet the very work objective that Mike described. When the Center’s operations outgrew its old location, Mike was persistent in finding a newer, larger building so the Center could branch out and grow.”
The Center moved to its current location on Alabama 21 in 2004.
Robert Watson, retired unit supervisor of the Vocational Rehabilitation Office in Anniston, calls Almaroad a friend. “He’s a real professional and they have a great program,” says Watson.
Nancy Young, staff member, speaks on behalf of the staff when she says “Mike always had an open door policy and was there to listen. She says Mike still talks about the first consumer he assisted when he started in 1980. He will always be an advocate for people with disabilities and will certainly be missed by his staff and in the rehabilitation field.
Almaroad says the Center is a business in a sense, and that’s where his business degree from JSU comes in. Almaroad graduated from Jacksonville High School in 1969 and JSU in 1974. It was at JHS that he met his wife, the formerly Beverly Bethea. They have three sons and four grandchildren. Almaroad is the son of the late Luther and Mary Lou (Sams) Almaroad, His siblings are Wallace Almaroad, Regina Aderholt and Sam Almaroad of Jacksonville and Ann Modica of Dothan.
He is an active member of Williams First Baptist church and several professional organizations, including the Alabama Rehabilitation Association. He is a member of the Alexandria Civitan Club, the Chamber of Commerce and is a board member of the Calhoun County Sports Hall of Fame. He has been a member of The Calhoun County Board of Education for the past 24 years, 12 as chairman. He’s running again on November 6 as a Republican.
Retirement will find Almaroad hunting, fishing, working in his garden and yard, traveling and spending time with his family.
“The Opportunity Center has always been a big part of my life,” says Almaroad. “During these past months, I’ve found myself reflecting on all the wonderful memories of the past 32 years.”