The satisfaction of a job well done. The dignity of receiving a paycheck. The joy of learning new skills. For clients of Cass Community Social Services (CCSS), these seemingly mundane, everyday realities of holding a job may have once seemed out of reach. But thanks to CCSS' Green Industries, adults with significant barriers to employment, especially adults with developmental disabilities, have been able to get to work.
Around fifty of those jobs are in document destruction (otherwise known as shredding documents). These positions provide opportunities for individuals with limited literacy, and unlike many other jobs aimed at the developmentally disabled which pay a lower diverted wage, they pay the full minimum wage. CCSS guides others towards self–employment. They make a product – such as birdhouses, dog leashes, cards or buttons – and sell it to the general public. They're responsible for managing their own inventory, sales and cash flow. And CCSS has helped a few individuals find employment with other local businesses. While CCSS provides clients with some skills training and transportation to work, they're responsible for landing the jobs themselves and working their shifts like all other employees.
Because they're providing a service and producing products that people are willing to pay for, Green Industries is completely self–sustaining. Demand drives employment, and they're able to train employees on the job and pay minimum wage (and sometimes better). For employees, it's a fun, encouraging place to work – and a chance to be part of a thriving community. Damonte Dickerson, a client of the Developmentally Disabled Job Program, says it best: "I like Cass a lot. I learn new things every day."
Executive Director Rev. Faith Fowler sees a few similarities between the way CCSS is able to affect its clients' lives and the way Art Van helps its customers. "Art Van is in the business of supplying people with quality, comfortable furniture that transform houses into homes," she says. "In a sense, our growing company helps Cass achieve a transforming role. Unemployed homeless people and adults with developmental disabilities gain confidence, the dignity associated with earning a paycheck and the pride in contributing to the community, all thanks to the support of Art Van."
CCSS serves 125 adults with developmental disabilities five days a week, and 325 homeless individuals stay at a Cass shelter every night. Cass' Green Industries employs 85 people. Art Van has helped CCSS raise awareness of their programs. Their involvement has shown a spotlight on the needs of their clients and the many different ways volunteers and donors can make a difference in people's lives. Perhaps even more importantly, Art Van has provided critical dollars that fill gaps in funding – meaning that CCSS has not had to turn away those in need. Learn more about Cass Community at casscommunity.org.