© 2024 WVIK
Listen at 90.3 FM and 98.3 FM in the Quad Cities, 95.9 FM in Dubuque, or on the WVIK app!
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Arrowleaf provides developmental services to help individuals with disabilities become self-sufficient

 Arrowleaf employees
Benjy jeffords
Arrowleaf employees learning employable job skills.

Arrowleaf provides developmental services to help individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities become self-sufficient.

Many adults with developmental and physical disabilities struggle to find jobs. Social service agencies around the region are working to help bridge the gap.

Arrowleaf's Community Service Program helps adults living with disabilities learn employable skills.

Gabe Clevenger, Dylan Thornton and Mark Valentine are working at a cold storage facility picking produce to deliver to Arrowleaf’s food pantry in Cairo.

Arrowleaf Community Service Program

Arrowleaf CEO Sherrie Crabb says they’re learning job skills that will carry over to their independent life.

“A big part of the program is to get them employable skills so that one day they'll be able to go work unsupervised for a local employer. And in this case, with the skills they're learning in this particular program is obviously picking up produce. So they may potentially be able to work in a grocery store understanding when produce is good, when it's bad or when it's expired what type of produce there is.”

Mark has been working with the food pantry for a little while and recently was able to move into his own apartment and manages his own care.

“So we go to the food bank. It gives the pallets out and decide which what we want to put on there. And then if we if again, it would create and if we get enough on the patio, I'm in the path they want to get. And then the guy he brings in say, I would reverse his and now we just load it inside the bus and driving down here.”

Crabb says these are just three examples of the dozens of individuals who are employed by Arrowleaf in many programs that are tailored to work for each person.

“The point of all of our programs is to help people kind of get back to the point where they can function. You know, whatever that looks like for them in a way that they're able to contribute, you know, to their family or to the community or to a job or themselves, you know. So that's kind of the main premise behind every single thing that we do is.”
CEO Sherrie Crabb

She says living with disabilities can be difficult for their clients which is why they spend a lot time training them to one day be self-sufficient.

“Making sure that they're following prompts or if they get distracted a little bit, knowing, you know, you know, understand that they have to stay on task, you know, there's a time you know, for taking breaks and there's a time for working and making sure that they're able to follow instruction from a supervisor. So those are all skills that are obviously needed, not just in the workplace, but also just, you know, day to day understanding that, you know, there's these rules about society that we all have to kind of follow in a sense, and that's going to help them be successful out on their own.”

All three men have struggled with mental illness their entire life and are learning social skills to someday support themselves.

“They have a variety of different diagnoses. And sometimes with those diagnoses come symptoms that often contribute to maybe our inability to have relationships with people, maybe take care of ourselves or become employable.”

Dylan enjoys his time working at the food pantry.

“I like it, it’s fun helping out other people.”

Crabb says part of the training helps them learn to handle their disabilities and take care of themselves.

“When they're unable to advocate for themselves or know the difference between sometimes what's right and wrong. They are often a victim, you know, of somebody else too, and fortunately taking advantage of them. Or maybe they act in a way that where maybe they would hurt somebody else or hurt themselves and it's maybe because they don't have the skills to manage what they're hearing or seeing or feeling.”

Crabb says some of their clients need a little time to warm up to the idea of having someone there to help them.

“Every day. I know whenever I get to see their face, they're always smiling and happy. Now, was it always that way? No. It's taken a long time for some of them to get to that point where they can interact in that form. You know, when we get individuals originally, they come in contact with us. They've used they've, you know, are maybe a little leery of getting help, some may be worried that they're going to be taken advantage of because maybe that's something that they've experienced before. So, you know, building trust and rapport with our clients is obviously our number one priority.”

Gabe has been with Arrowleaf for more than two decades and just recently volunteered for the food pantry work crew because he heard other clients talking about how much they enjoyed it.

“It’s good to know that we’re doing something good for the community, because there are some people in the community that are not as fortunate as what other people are.”

Crabb says she’s delighted to see Gabe trying new things.

“That's the first time that's ever happened before. And, you know, Gabe is someone that, you know, he will always struggle in following direction. But at the same time, he has gotten to a point in his life where if you can provide redirection to him, he will he will follow that redirection.”

Seeing improvements like that is what makes Crabb thankful she can provide help to others.

“It is the most meaningful job there is out there to know that you're assisting someone, not giving them something, but giving them the tools that they need in order to contribute back. And we see it every day. And it's that you just saw three people today. There are thousands of people that receive services on a regular basis from us in our region and I know for a fact, even though some people may not understand our connection, our region is better because of human service providers like Relief and so many others that are doing niche kind of areas to help out.”

Benjy Jeffords is a digital media production specialist at WSIU Public Broadcasting located at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Contact WSIU Radio at 618-453-6101 or email wsiunews@wsiu.org