Friends Helping Friends has resumed its sheltered workshop operations, and the new woodshop and other programs are working out well with the participants.
Friends Helping Friends, located in Cuba, is a non-profit organization that serves the mentally challenged residents across Crawford County.
The individuals in this program have a wide variety of disabilities that include Down syndrome, Autism, and many others.
Established in 1989, the program was a day activity center until recently, when it became a sheltered workshop. There are currently 20 mentally challenged participants that are enrolled in the program. Their jobs include woodworking, cleaning, laundry, lawn care, and making fire starter kits and washer games. Some of these jobs are contracted to Friends Helping Friends by local businesses.
ln April, Friends Helping Friends received their approval from the Department of Labor for the substandard minimum wage program. This program allows companies to pay the mentally challenged workers a lower wage based on their performance during timed studies.
"When mentally challenged individuals can't be in our workforce, Friends Helping
Friends gives them a place to work and build their self-esteem," said Diana Lea, Operations Manager at Friends Helping Friends. "Working for them creates a sense of self-worth, especially when they see the products they made around town."
Along with the work, Friends Helping Friends also teaches the participants the art of financial responsibility. Every Thursday, Friends Helping Friends takes the participants shopping, to help get them the essentials needed for daily life.
"By taking them shopping, we are teaching them how to bank, budget money, and prioritize the things they need," Lea added. "Our staff—which includes myself,
Supervisors Linda Fowler and Jim Anderson, Office Assistant Tammy Brewer, and
Maintenance Joe Filippi—work hard to ensure that the participants have every opportunity to learn various skills needed in society."
For more information on Friends Helping Friends or about their programs, please call 573-885-2423.