Over the last few years The Arc’s recycling initiatives have created environments in which individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) who want to work have the training and support they need to provide valuable recycling services to businesses and their communities. Last year, thanks to generous funding from the Alcoa Foundation, The Arc expanded these recycling initiatives to three new chapters. Each chapter’s program supports employment and skill development for individuals with I/DD and takes us closer to our goal of promoting the importance of recycling as a means for environmental sustainability in local communities. Here’s how they’re doing it:
The Arc of Knox County:
In Tennessee, The Arc of Knox County decided to leverage an existing relationship with Second Harvest Food Bank to create a new recycling program that both provides employment opportunities for individuals with I/DD and helps Second Harvest recycle the large amount of plastic and cardboard materials they take in from boxes of donated food.
The satisfaction of having a job and earning a competitive wage doing work for an organization like Second Harvest can mean a lot to someone with a disability. And, for Robert Harb that joy comes from getting ready for work each day. For Robert putting on his work pants and going to his job evokes a great sense of pride. Last year, when the program began Robert showed interest in the opportunity and agreed to visit the site with his job coach. After seeing the work first hand he decided he wanted the job, but was informed that his usual sweat pants weren’t appropriate work attire. He agreed with this requirement and embraced this change in his daily routine. He was provided with several pairs of khakis and blue work pants and he now arrives each morning wearing the appropriate pants and with a great attitude. Overall, Robert has shown an increased awareness of the importance of good hygiene as well as a renewed dedication for doing his very best work. He is even saving money to expand his work wardrobe, as his career with Second Harvest continues to grow.
In the spring of 2011, Theo left Ulster-Greene Arc’s sheltered work center to work at a neighborhood bottle and can redemption center. The job was a good fit for him and allowed him to earn a decent paycheck, but unfortunately the center closed and Theo was left jobless. Undeterred, Theo began exploring the idea of creating a bottle and can redemption center within Ulster-Greene Arc, showing tremendous initiative In January 2012, the agency proudly opened Theo’s Bottle and Can Return, and with additional funding from The Arc through its recycling initiative, the program was able to expand.
The business currently employs eight individuals with I/DD at minimum wage or above and collects approximately 38,880 refundable items (aluminum, glass and plastic containers) weekly. From the time the products enter into the recycling centers, employees with I/DD are involved in every aspect of the job including the sorting and packaging of materials for shipment. Ulster-Greene Arc has created an environment in which customers can be helped quickly and efficiently, while workers with disabilities can showcase their talents and contribute to their community.
The Arc Montgomery County:
The Arc Montgomery County has been involved in recycling since 2005. In that time, the chapter has trained and supported both paid and volunteer workers with I/DD and have fostered inclusive work environments. The Textile Recycling & Collection Program (“TRCP”) expansion began in January 2013, utilizing various capabilities of The Arc Montgomery’s Thrift Store and document destruction business.
After several meetings with its senior executives, Asbury Methodist Village decided to launch a TRCP Multi-Day Container Collection Program for their entire community and agreed to host a permanent drop-off location for textile donations. With 823 independent living units, 122 assisted living units and 285 nursing supported units, Asbury Methodist Village, is the 12th largest Senior Living Community in the country.
Asbury Methodist Village has also asked individuals with I/DD to volunteer as collection helpers which led to them expressing an interest in hiring workers with I/DD to serve meals and arrange tables in their cafeteria and to assist recreational and social activities for seniors. Asbury Methodist Village is one of the Montgomery County largest employers, generating economic growth and opportunities for philanthropic involvement – and now generating opportunities for people with I/DD as well.