A new foundation grant will help provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled received a $10,000 grant from the First Niagara Foundation to expand its microenterprise pre-vocational services program.
The program helps people learn hard-work skills and soft interpersonal communication and customer relations skills, with a goal of moving individuals toward competitive employment.
The First Niagara grant will be used to fund equipment and supplies for several ventures, including a vending machine, a coin-operated laundry machine business and a snack cafe training program; as well as fund creation of a training video for individuals in a self-advocacy group to help encourage people with developmental disabilities that they too can learn work skills and find productive work.
“We’re helping them learn job skills and be prepared to move into what we see as some of the service industry jobs they can participate in,” said Mark Foley, president and CEO at Community Services. “They’ll have a broader set of skills, which increases the potential for them to get a job down the line.”
Like other agencies that serve individuals with disabilities, Community Services has been phasing out sheltered workshops to meet state and federal requirements to integrate individuals into the community in competitively paid or volunteer job opportunities, as opposed to workshops jobs where they receive sub-minimum wages and don’t have the opportunity to interact with non-disabled colleagues.
Two years ago, the agency took over a sheltered workshop program from another agency after it closed down and has since moved nearly half of those workers into the community.
“Thirty individuals had been working for decades in the sheltered workshop there and moved to Community Services, and 12 are now employed in competitive, better-than-minimum wage jobs,” Foley said. “We’re very proud of the progress we’ve made with the people involved and hoping to work with the remainder to help them get out into the workforce and be more productive people.”