Helping those with developmental disabilities integrate into the workplace is an important goal for the the Center for Human Services in Sedalia, and it’s often a partnership between the center and local businesses who see the individual’s potential.
October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month and CHS Program Manager Daniel Bridges said the program not only has clients working at the Ewing Vocational Center but it has integrated them into the community workforce at different businesses.
“The people who work here inside the building are funded through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Bridges said Tuesday. “We call that facilities-based employment.”
Inside the Ewing Vocational Center, clients work on jobs for Gardner Denver, Duke Manufacturing, and other diverse businesses.
On Tuesday, CHS Job Coach Betty Bartlett was assisting Jeff Schroeder in building a valve for Gardner Denver. They planned to align it to the correct specifications so it could be attached to the company’s air compressors.
First aid kits are also assembled inside the Ewing Center. Jody Franklin was one of 16 to 17 clients counting out non-aspirin pain reliever packs to be included in the kits.
“I have to put 15 to a bag, but first you have to label the bag,” Franklin said.
Bridges and CHS Quality Assurance Manager Carol Bottcher said the first aid kits are shipped all over.
“Jody always does an excellent job, we always know her count is right,” Bottcher added.
Treasa Stockwell, a CHS job coach, said other clients were counting gloves and other components of the kits.
“Once they get all that put together, there’s first aid kits they put together with the items,” Stockwell said.
Gardner Law Offices, of Sedalia, also utilizes clients at CHS. Brittany Riley was busy scanning data Tuesday morning.
“Scott Gardner brings over files and Brittany scans them into a database,” Bridges said. “Scott Gardener will come over here and pull the electronic files, then all the old files get shredded. She also does shredding for another social service agency in the area.”
One unique, new contract clients are working on at Ewing Vocational is a job for the U.S. Navy where they make specialized, non-static paper aprons. The aprons are worn by the military when torpedoes are loaded.
“We get the fabric from DuPont,” Bridges said. “It goes to a place in Harrisonville that cuts it, they send it to us and we sew it up to the specifications.”
With that particular contract, clients will process approximately 1,900 to 2,000 aprons per month for one year.
“Our new shipment of this will go out in February 2017,” Bridges said.
Those clients who wish to work out in the community have the option of working at Zephyr Manufacturing Co., Ditzfeld Transfer Truck Wash and Superior Lawn.
Bridges said the training time to bring a client into the workforce depends on the individual.
“What we like to do, is try and meet the individual where they are at and find out their goal,” Bridges noted. “The very first process is to sit down with those individuals, and talk to them, and find out what their hopes and dreams are, and how we can assist them to reach them.”
If the goal is to be employed out in the community they won’t begin working inside the center. Those that wish to work outside will go through a Department of Mental Health community-based employment program.
“It works on getting individuals integrated into the community,” he said. “Now we do have our greenhouse, which is open to the public. Because it’s a retail greenhouse we hire individuals with disabilities and individuals without disabilities to work in there. That would actually be considered community employment.”
He added that nationally there is a “push” to get everyone employed in their communities.
“Some of the individuals will have different barriers to employment,” Bridges said. “That’s what we work on. We work on employability skills, like work-appropriate conversation, work-appropriate dress. We talk about the importance of showing up on time … just a wide variety of different things.”
Bridges noted that although October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, CHS works every month helping people into the workforce. They also work toward educating business owners.
“Sometimes business owners are hesitant, they have concerns,” he said. “Mark Register, is our intake manager now, he does a great job of going out and explaining to the businesses the benefits and the supports we offer. We always send a job coach with the individual to help them learn the job.”
In some instances, the job coach stays with the individual indefinitely, although many times the client does so well they can phase out the coach, allowing the individual to work on their own. Sometimes instead of the individual working through CHS, the employer actually hires them, providing them the same benefits as they do to other employees.
CHS also offers an employment transition program that centers on high school-aged students.
“We have one that we run out of here,” Bridges said. “Then we have Project Search over at State Fair Community College. The program we have here is for anybody Sedalia (School District) 200 thinks would benefit. Project Search, they have to meet the vocational rehabilitation requirements and have a qualifying disability.
“We want to give those young men and women the skills they need to thrive in the work place,” he added. “… An individual with a disability, a lot of times, they are left out of the loop until they graduate. By then it’s kind of too late. We want to make sure we are doing all we can to set them up for success.”
Businesses interested in having a CHS client work for them or individuals who know someone who qualifies for the program can call Daniel Bridges at the Center for Human Services at 826-4400.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.