Everyone has the ability to dream big, set goals and work hard to achieve them.
Meet Jason. Before he started public school, Jason attended TradeWinds’ Children’s Services for several years in the 1980s until his situation at home changed.
“I lived in different foster homes from the time I was 5 to 16,” he says. “Then I went back to live with my mom until I got my own apartment when I was 25, but I still helped my mom until she passed away last November.”
Passionate about drawing, Jason wanted to develop his natural talent.
“Unfortunately, before and during high school I did not have a positive path. Even when I was trying to better myself – I wanted to go to art school, but the art teacher said I couldn’t,” he explains. “All through school, people didn’t believe in me. Once I graduated, I knew I had to go straight to work, no more fun summers for me. When I came back to TradeWinds for work, they gave me a chance and treated me like a person.”
Now 38 years old, Jason has been working in the TradeWinds Sign Shop for 20 years and is currently saving up for his next vacation.
“I pay rent for my own apartment, and I have assistance going out in the community to run errands,” he adds. “I wish I could see some of those people from school and show them how I’m doing now. People don’t know when they tease and poke fun of someone how that lasts with them. Without TradeWinds, I think I might have ended up in a deep, dark hole.”
“Jason has been an integral part of the Sign Shop’s success over the last two decades,” TradeWinds Fiscal/Q&A Director and Sign Shop Manager Jamie Peyton says. “It’s really rewarding to see the change that happens in people when they have purpose - when they have a goal and they’ve achieved that goal.”
Disability should never stand in the way of anyone achieving their goals.
At TradeWinds, where “serving people with special needs by empowering them to realize their full potential” has been the mission since 1967, nearly 400 children and more than 500 adults currently receive services based on their unique plans for achieving greater independence, dignity and personal freedom.
Staffed by degreed teachers, trained teacher assistants and a full-time onsite nurse for added peace of mind, TradeWinds’ Child Care is open from 6:30am to 6pm weekdays and serves infants through preschoolers year round with an emphasis on school readiness. Summer Camp is available for those who are school age.
“Since our children’s program was established in the 1960s to assist people who couldn’t find a place for children with disabilities – a safe place for when mom and dad need to be at work or school – it is not widely known that everyone is welcome,” TradeWinds’ Director of Programs Lisa Previs explains. “We understand that it can be a difficult and stressful task for all parents to find reliable, quality child care. Our program promotes inclusion, celebrates differences and encourages teamwork.”
Then, whether new to the agency or returning to make the transition from student to adult as Jason did, TradeWinds provides a full range of services that help adults live and work in the community as independently as possible.
“Everyone has strengths,” TradeWinds’ Director of Industries & Pre-Vocational Services Helen Rutkowski says. “Everyone has things that they’re really good at, and we want our workers to focus on their abilities. It doesn’t matter what they can’t do, it matters what they can do.”
In addition to the Sign Shop, TradeWinds has opportunities onsite for all abilities in sewing where more than 270,000 coveralls are produced annually for the Department of Defense, eRecycling where a new partnership with CyclePoint™ from SourceAmerica® has increased job opportunities and a variety of packaging and assembly jobs thanks to many mutually-beneficial business partnerships.
Beyond that, to help remove the barriers that prevent adults living with disabilities from achieving fulfillment through work in the community, TradeWinds provides vocational assessment, employment training and job placement services.
“We assist job seekers with their job readiness skills and job search. We help employers understand tax incentives, communication and accommodations. We provide job shadowing services for smooth transitions,” TradeWinds’ Director of Human Resources and Employment Services Vernita Johnson-Macklin explains. “When you assist someone who has never worked in the community before, you help them figure out they can do anything they put their minds to, that they can conquer anything they want to do.”
For more information, go to www.tradewindsNWI.org, call TradeWinds at 219.945.0100 or visit the main facility at 3198 E. 83rd Place in Hobart. Look for the latest updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.