By KANDACE MCCOY
WALTONVILLE — Assisting individuals with developmental disabilities as they go about their daily routine is the focus of a new facility opened by Progressing Housing.
The new day-training facility, Progressive Careers, is located at 414 North Hirons, and opened Nov. 30.
Two years ago, Progressive Housing began a carpet cleaning business for its clients as a way to become more independent. Due to lack of funding, the carpet cleaning business stopped. However, that venture inspired a new way to help clients — Progressive Careers.
“(Perfection Cleaning) worked out so well, that we decided to expand on the idea,” explained Ron Schroeder, CEO and board member of Progressive Housing. “When we looked out our clientele, what we found is that they didn’t enjoy the workshops in the area, so we did some demographics and thought maybe this would be a better way for them to enjoy their days and daily activities.”
During the workshops, clients would contract work in which they would sort pieces, such as bolts, into plastic bags, which were then placed into a case and loaded onto a pallet. The case would then be broken down and unpacked.
“We think that is more mind-numbing, than mind-expanding,” Schroeder said. “Our people have various capabilities and we think we can expand their horizons with Progressive Careers.”
Progressive Careers opened Nov. 30, and this is the first day-training facility for its parent company, according to Schroeder. Another facility is slated to open in Peoria in the fall of 2010. However, Schroeder says socialization is an important factor in clients’ therapy and every day activities, which he believes Progressive Careers will address.
“Socialization skills are the big thing and we like to socialize clients into the community and with each other,” he said. “Socialization is the key to behavior problems and being happy. Without it, it just doesn’t make their life fulfilling.”
“We’re not a traditional facility because we don’t offer a paycheck,” explained Shelly Brown, director of Progressive Careers. “At some point, clients do retire and maybe they can’t work or don’t choose to work. We’re trying to keep their brains stimulated so they can continue the skills they have and keep their bodies fit.”
Programs offered at the facility include computer programs, writing exercises, math exercises, cooking and art classes as well as recreational activities to name a few. Clients also volunteer in the community and go shopping once a week. Brown said future activities at the facility include a mowing and landscaping service.
“We offer them a home atmosphere,” Brown added. “A place for them to go.”
“We offer basic skills — name writing, math programs, telling time and colors and shapes — so they don’t lose those skills,” said Tammy Myers, a day trainer.
Carol Buraglio, who is a resident at Joshua Manor in Hoyleton, says she enjoys being at Progressive Careers because she gets more exercise.
“I also get to cook and do laundry. I learned to write my name for when I write a check for shopping. I take care of my own money,” she boasted with a grin.
“I appreciate it,” said Jim Richardson, 90. “I used to work at a workshop and I got tired and retired. I want to stay active as much as I can.” He added he was looking forward to working with the garden the facility plans to put in the spring.
Morris Metger says he, too, enjoys the programs, especially playing the piano.
“Our main goal is to be cohesive with the community,” added Brown. “We want to get our clients out in the community working. They’re human beings — they have unconditional love for one another. It’s a very fulfilling job. That’s what it’s all about — bringing all of us together.”
Progressive Careers is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, you may call 279-1580.
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