By Amanda Ensinger
Prairie Township leadership moved forward with some new collaborations in an effort to make the community more inclusive. At a recent board meeting, the trustees approved several new partnerships through the community center.
James Gant, director of the center, presented the partnership opportunities to the board and cited the importance of welcoming a variety of people to the center. Among the new partnerships discussed was a program that provided special needs adults with essential skills to learn a trade.
“The first partnership we would like to pursue is with ARC Industries,” Gant said. “ARC has several job training programs for adults with special needs. The idea of the program is to have a place where these adults can learn a skill and get some job experience to prepare them to be a part of the workforce.”
According to Gant, the township will allow ARC Industries participants to help with cleaning around the community center for three months for approximately three hours a week. The ARC participants will always have a job coach from ARC with them while they complete their tasks.
“ARC pays them and takes care of the job coach, so there are no expenses on our end,” Gant said. “It is mutually beneficial because ARC looks at it as job training and learning job skills in a public environment. It also helps us because ARC participants will cover what our cleaning contract doesn’t cover and frees up our maintenance specialist to do other high-level tasks.”
Gant said this also is about doing the right thing and helping residents on the westside learn important skills that will eventually translate into a full-time job with other companies.
The board also agreed to participate in the Project Search program with South-Western City Schools and Ohio Health Doctor’s Hospital. This program is for students with special needs who have graduated from high school and are between the ages of 18-21.
“This program is for students who have graduated but are not ready for the workforce yet and have special needs,” Gant said. “We have partnered with this program to provide some health and wellness education for participants. The goal for our partnership is to help these students understand the importance of living a healthy lifestyle.”
The center plans to bring these students in once a month and have them participant in different fitness and healthy lifestyle classes. Among the classes they will participate in includes water fitness, yoga and a cooking class.
“We know from research that many special needs individuals don’t eat healthy, don’t work out and don’t make fitness a priority,” Gant said. “We want them to experience a variety of fitness classes and see what they like most, as well as teach them simple cooking tips they can do at home.”
Gant said approximately 14 people will participate in the program and they will be paying for any classes they participate in.
“We want to teach them how to budget and what expenses are, so they will be paying for any class they participate in,” Gant added. “Being healthy is important and there are expenses associated with taking care of yourself. We want to teach them this.”
Finally, the community center announced that it will be partnering with Veterans Affairs (VA) and having the community center be a location for their Vocational Rehab Program. The program allows veterans to work in an area of career interest to see if they are physically able to perform the job, as well as if they enjoy it before pursuing an education in that field.
“A township resident who is a veteran is currently working at the community center 22 hours a week to see if he can physically perform the job before getting further education in this field,” Gant said. “The VA is paying him, and he will be with us for three months.”
According to Gant, if the veteran decides they can physically meet the demands of the job after three months, he or she will participate in a vocational program in the industry.
“We are always interested in listening to our residents and seeing what programs they are interested in having us offer,” Gant added. “These programs are mutually beneficial to the township and residents and we are proud to be able to offer them.”