EDCL seeking new outlets to provide jobs to its clients

John N., Robert M., Sherri K., instructor Christina S. and Jason P. participating in chair yoga at the Elmira District Community Living centre in Elmira. [Submitted]
John N., Robert M., Sherri K., instructor Christina S. and Jason P. participating in chair yoga at the Elmira District Community Living centre in Elmira. [Submitted]

Some changes are in the offing, but the goal remains the same: find meaningful work for adults with developmental and physical disabilities.

Elmira District Community Living is winding down its ARC Industries operation, sheltered workshop environment where adults with developmental and physical disabilities can work under staff supervision, completing jobs for local companies. The organization is looking for other outlets for employment for its clients.

On June 10, EDCL will be opening its doors to give the public a chance to see what changes have been made and the organization’s new direction after the Ministry of Community and Social Services issued a directive to shut down ARC Industries.

The work done at the Elmira location can be menial and tedious, but Cheryl Peterson, services director at EDCL says the workshop environment provides a level of satisfaction and feeling of contribution for their clients.

“We need to fill the gap that is left by ARC Industries. There are 49 people in the building, 21 still work on contracts. There are plenty of people who need to have a meaningful day, whatever that may look like,” she said, adding EDCL has had to change tack with their strategies. “We need to fill that gap left by ARC Industries. Not everybody can go out and earn minimum wage, so what are we going to do with these people to make their lives stay meaningful. We have individuals that have been working at ARC Industries for 30 years. That is the only thing they knew. They are now 40, 50, 60 years old, so that is a big part of their life and it meant a lot to them, just working on a contract and just even a stipend of something, they were contributing and it makes them feel worthwhile.”

The open house is designed to show the community how EDCL plans on closing that gap.

“What we want to do is have the building open to bring the community in to see what we are transitioning to. We are going to have a demonstration of a jewelry class happening, some music therapy happening, possibly a chair yoga class too. The public can come in to see how we are transitioning away from a sheltered workshop,” said Donna Fulcher, EDCL’s manager of day supports, adding that they are also looking for more people to lend a hand. “We are going to have our volunteer booth set up as well. If people want to come in and sign up to lend us a hand, they can do that too. We will have many ideas there for people to choose from.”

It has been a slow process for EDCL to transition away from the sheltered workshop model, with plans put in motion nearly 20 years ago. It has been steady, however.

“We are going to have more recreation and leisure activities for our clients. We have individuals now that are volunteering in the community. We also want to make them aware that we have people here that can lend their time to projects in the community,” said Peterson. “Obviously, if there is any type of paid employment that our people could do, something like a minimum wage job, within their skill set. We do have people that are already working in the community, but there aren’t a lot. People who have lived around here for a long time know our building as ARC Industries, so we are trying to let the community know that we’re still the same organization, we are just going to be doing something different now.”

The open house runs at the former ARC Industries building at 146 Church St. W. in Elmira from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Visit www.elmiradcl.com for more information.

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