An initiative that began with one person in a woodworking shed has grown into a vocational program for people with developmental disabilities.
Skidz Reimagined was created by Tony Mitchell, president of Residential Community Care in Lebanon. People in the program learn woodworking and carpentry skills as a stepping point toward finding a job in the community.
For example, Jay D. Farmer is an adult with cerebral palsy in the program.
“He has been attending the Skidz Reimagined program for a couple of months now and loves it. He is a hard worker, he takes pride in his work, and he likes building the furniture and seeing how he turns the lumber into useful items,” said Holly Boyd, Jay’s service coordinator with the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
The finished products are offered for sale to the public, including items such as deck chairs, butcher block kitchen islands, bookshelves, end tables, birdhouses and other home decor.
Skidz Reimagined, located at 560 W. Main St. in Lebanon, is open Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Mitchell tells more about the program and its impact.
Q: What is Skidz Reimagined?
A: Skidz Reimagined is a vocational habilitation program that is part of Residential Community Care and is centered around woodworking.
Skidz offers individuals with developmental disabilities a robust learning experience that is centered around building independence and success in work environments. For those individuals not able to maintain a job, we instruct the proper work skills necessary for employment and social skills necessary for working with co-workers, supervisors and those beyond the work environment.
Q: How did it begin?
A: Skidz started out in a small woodworking shed in April 2015 making small crafts for individuals in our day program. We started with one individual, and within about three months, we added a couple more individuals and needed to add on to the shed.
By September 2015 Skidz was working with an average of five individuals a day. We then moved into a 3,200-square-foot building on the property. Come June 2016, we outgrew that space and moved into a 13,000-square-foot building where we average working with 18 individuals each day. Some days we will have 25 individuals with special needs working.
Skidz Reimagined grew to a dynamic vocational program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Q: How does Skidz Reimagined help people with developmental disabilities?
A: At Skidz, our individuals learn in an environment that empowers them to be as independent as possible in the workforce. We use the woodworking as the resource to teach our individuals the proper social and communication skills needed to keep and maintain a job in the community. In addition, we work with them on learning and understanding why it’s important to appreciate the value of a good work ethic.
Q: What makes this program unique?
A: One big reason Skidz is unique is we pay each individual $8.10 (Ohio minimum wage) per hour when they’re working. For many individuals, they now feel like they are finally earning a decent paycheck. This has led to many of our individuals having pride in their work. Many of our individuals have begun to recognize that by focusing on their abilities instead of their disabilities, they are getting one step closer to being as independent as possible.
Another reason Skidz is unique is that our individuals have many opportunities to be a part of their community while working at Skidz. Whether it is going to pick up materials or going to customers’ homes or business to install a project, they get an opportunity to be a part of that experience. Very rarely do any of our staff leave the shop without taking at least one individual with them. This helps further their education on how to communicate with customers as well as suppliers.
Q: Why is it important to teach vocational skills to people with developmental disabilities?
A: As with any person, learning what your gifts or strengths are is very valuable in life. This provides a greater opportunity for you to not only be productive but also enjoy that process. Many individuals with special needs will not further their education past high school. More often than not, any non-disabled person that doesn’t want to further their education will learn a trade. While learning this trade is important, if they don’t learn how to communicate effectively with their co-worker or boss, they are hindering their chances of being successful in that trade.
At Skidz we use the woodworking as our “tool” to teach the individuals the importance of good communication and social skills, therby providing them with a greater opportunity to gain and maintain a job in the community. Plus, they really enjoy the end product they helped create.