A reporter from a Texas newspaper has talked with the owner of Henry’s Turkey Service, the firm at the center of controversy after its "bunkhouse" in Atalissa was shut down in February. State officials took the 21 mentally disabled men who were still living there into protective custody.
Henry’s Turkey Service brought dozens of mentally disabled men from Texas to live in Atalissa, and the men worked at the turkey plant in nearby West Liberty. A story published in The Dallas Morning News on Sunday features an interview with Kenneth Henry, the 68-year-old Texan who is co-owner of Henry’s Turkey Service.
Henry defended the way his firm took nearly all the mens’ paychecks. Henry told the newspaper no one wants to talk about the cost of the 24-hour-a-day care that’s necessary for the men. Henry also said critics don’t understand that the men took pride in their work — and didn’t think they were being exploited.
The newspaper also revealed the co-owner of Henry’s Turkey Service — Thurman Johnson — lived in the old Atalissa schoolhouse with the men for several years. According to the newspaper, Texas officials approached Johnson in 1966 to find work for mentally disabled men on Johnson’s turkey farm in Texas. Johnson died in Texas last year.
Co-owner Henry and Johnson’s wife began shutting down Henry’s Turkey Service in Atalissa and taking the men who lived there back to Texas.
Henry told The Dallas Morning News he had not been "getting rich" from the operation and "took care of these boys for 40 years." In addition, Henry told the paper his operation was "a lot better (for the boys) than letting them rot in a state institution."