ARLINGTON – When disabled volunteer Brian Abelson cuddles with his favorite orange tabby, George at Purrfect Pals in Arlington, he gets more than time and comfort with a furry friend.
The 29-year-old gains real life on-the-job skills and coping strategies that can better prepare him for the workforce and independent living.
Abelson is one of dozens of clients in Village Community Services’ Supported Employment program. The program creates job opportunities for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and helps them with all aspects of getting employed.
His volunteer coach, Jenni Brown, said when they first met last summer, she knew he enjoyed role play. He has dressed as a matador, a cowboy and a policeman, but he is especially drawn to Indiana Jones-wear. “He and I met decked out head to toe in a matching Indiana Jones outfit,” she said, and they hit it off from there.
They might want to keep those movie adventurer duds handy.
Nonprofit VCS programs such as Supported Employment depend on support and fundraising. No event is bigger than the annual Village Gala and Auction, which this year happens to be a movie premier-themed event April 6 at the Angel of the Winds Casino Resort. It will feature live entertainment, dinner, raffle prizes, a live action and premier segments of the VCS documentary short film, Voices Among Us, which highlights the organization’s member-based ensemble band, Voices of the Village.
Through their Supported Employment program, VCS helps people with disabilities with all aspects of the employment process, executive director Michelle Dietz said.
The nonprofit covers assessment of what the participant wants or can do. They also teach them basic job skills like getting up, what to wear, personal hygiene, and how to best work respectfully with a boss and co-workers.
“We help them find a job, interview and negotiate accommodation, and we can help with on-the-job training to, if the employer want,” Dietz said. “Job retention is also an important goal for us.”
Village Community Services provides a many vocational supports to individuals who have physical, mental health and developmental disabilities. Services are tailored to each individual’s specific job training needs, goals and aspirations to help them better achieve on the job, as well as at home and in community life.
“We’re building employees that add value in the workplace,” Dietz said.
VCS launched the program in the ’60s using a sheltered workshop environment, before it branched out in 2008 with more emphasis on community-based employment, Dietz said. “It has been growing ever since.”
The program currently has 81 participants, and typically averages 115 each year. Participants in north Snohomish County include Sno-Isle Regional Libraries, Senior Aerospace AMT, Action Sports, Mission Motors, Safeway, St. Phillips Church and numerous nonprofits that include local food banks.
“Purrfect Pals says every cat matters,” Brown said. “I say his life really matters, and his contribution to the community matters.”
Abelson works two hours every Tuesday at Purrfect Pals. He started out comforting the cats, but now Brown has got him to build his skills to include folding laundry and outdoor chores, leaving time to break out the board games.
She said board and trivia games are improving his communication skills, and he’s grasping strategies that allow him to relax and reduce his anxiety.
“He’s going to be an employable person,” Brown said. “Something is out there for him, but right now he’s found a great place to build skills.”
About the Gala and Auction April 6
Village Community Services will celebrate its 12th annual Village Gala at 5:30 p.m. April 6 at the Angel of the Winds Casino Resort, 3438 Stoluckquamish Lane in Arlington. The movie premier-themed event will feature live entertainment, dinner, raffle prizes and a live auctino, while premiering segments of the VCS documentary short film, “Voices Among Us,” which highlights the organization’s member-based ensemble band, Voices of the Village.
The event is open to the public, with individual tickets started at $75; tables of eight run $500. For more information or to buy tickets online, visit https://villagegala2019.eventbrite.
Volunteers are also needed to help with set up, assisting during the event, and clean up. Dress code is white shirt or blouse and black slacks or skirt. For more details contact Maya Sullivan at VCS at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 425-268-7939.