ROCKY RIVER - For many with developmental disabilities, the prospect of entering the work force can be a daunting one.
ROCKY RIVER — For many with developmental disabilities, the prospect of entering the work force can be a daunting one.
But a program offered by the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities is turning that seemingly daunting task into a reality.
Solutions at Work, Inc. is a program that trains people with developmental disabilities to enter the workforce in a number of different areas, giving them a chance to make a living.
Although SAW is headquartered in Independence, all of the Board of Developmental Disabilities branches around the county help train future employees, including the Rocky River Adult Activities Center.
“Here at Rocky River, we provide services to 138 individuals with developmental disabilities,” Adult Activities Services Manager Laura Cooper said. “Within our center, we have three different programs. In addition to employment, we also offer activities.”
Some who attend the center come for both activities and employment, some for just activities and some strictly to work. The center also offers a number of different types of jobs, ranging from piece work done at the center to working in retail shops and cafés around the county.
The piece work is done in a manufacturing area located in the center, which resembles most manufacturing floors seen in the area. Companies contract work to SAW, such as packaging products or checking threads on screws. Last year, the Rocky River center alone processed about 15 million pieces.
One of those who come strictly to work is Pat Mikielski, 69, of Westlake, an employee who packages polishing cloths into clear pouches that are sold in stores. In addition to packaging the cloth, Mikielski also irons it first.
Her favorite part of the job? Making money.
“You make money here, you do,” she said. “Sometimes you’ll get some of the powder on your clothes, and you can’t get it out. But you make money.”
Many of the individuals that attend the center do so right after finishing high school. They come to the center to learn real world skills they can use in the work place, such as groundskeeping, washing dishes, interacting with customers or working in manufacturing.
“It’s really person centered,” Employment Services Director Dave Reinke said. “It really depends on what the individual wants to do, as well as what their family wants.”
Westlake Porter Public Library recently announced that an agreement was reached with SAW to run the library’s café space, which will be called Pulleys. The café will serve coffee, bakery items and sandwiches and will be staffed by individuals who have finished one of the Board of Developmental Disabilities’s employment training programs.
Joe Sammon, 49, of Bay Village, will be one of the employees at the new café when it opens later this month.
“I was in a program that helped teach me how to go on interviews and what to do, and what not to do, on the job,” Sammon said.
He also said he is excited to get started with the new job because he likes helping people.
Pulleys will be the latest in a number of stores and businesses SAW operates around the county. The group also is behind HeARTworks — a store located in the Galleria in Cleveland, which sells artwork created by individuals at the center — and Just a Buck, a dollar store in Rocky River.
The center also offers classes on subjects such as acting and drama, and puts on plays and productions that the public can attend.
Madonna Dezsi, 20, of Lakewood, is taking one of the acting classes and just landed the lead role of Alice in Alice in Wonderland.
“We do a lot of dance and sing, too,” Dezsi said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
In addition to the work programs located at the Rocky River Adult Activities Center and the SAW run stores around the county, the center also trains some individuals for competitive employment in the outside workforce.
Currently, the Board of Developmental Disabilities has 1,554 individuals enrolled in its Adult Activities Centers around the county, with 1,150 working in the community and is certainly living up to its mission
“Our mission is to support and empower people with developmental disabilities to live, learn, work and play in the community,” Cooper said.