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How you can help people with disabilities get back to work

Nobody wants to hear Boca’s disabled workforce got left behind in the pandemic. But it’s true.

Before March, JARC Florida had clients with intellectual and developmental disabilities in vocational training and jobs. That’s just part of their mission to serve people 18 to 84 of all faiths.

The training and work ranges from cooking and kitchen prep to labeling and packaging. They had employment partnerships. They had the space they needed. Donors helped pay for programming. Now it costs $5,000 a month just to keep their programs going.

But there’s something the community can do, from new hires, to donating space, to donations.

“This is a very important part of our clients’ daily routines. Their employment is very essential to their daily life and sense of self-worth,” said Nancy Freiwald, director of program services for JARC FL.  “We are trying desperately to get people back to work. They get paid for the work and take great pride in it.”

A workplace can be back in their building on the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County campus off Glades Road. Or through their community works program with local businesses. “We do contract work, packaging or labeling that needs to be done,” she said. “We do cotter pins. We’re doing 100 in a bag and labeling them. We’re labeling for a company that sells blinds. We label the samples and we’re doing 1,600 a week.”

JARC usually has as many as 150 people working on site. “But a lot of group home residents haven’t come back yet and we’re taking the work to them. We have over 70 individuals in our group homes,” Freiwald said.  “We’re not comfortable taking in business if we can’t assure their health and safety. So, we’re looking for space as more come back. We need to ensure they can stay 6 feet apart.”

Every group home has a vehicle, so if someone donates an empty space, “they can go to a different site,” she added about workers.

JARC reopened their day program the first week in August. “Knock on wood, everything’s gone well,” she said. But even while they were shut down, JARC kept in touch. Friewald emailed work sheets to clients so they could “hone money skills or math….” She set up a Zoom program “so they can see each other. Today we had a speech and Spanish class on Zoom,” she said. “Every week we have a music therapy class, aerobics, drama and dance. We’re doing everything to keep our clients connected to us and one another.”

Normally vendors do the programming and people pay a fee to go. Not now. “Our virtual program costs us $5,000 a month. We would welcome donations to help us continue to maintain virtual programming,” she said, at https://jarcfl.org/

By Marci Shatzman

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