WARSAW — Independence, integration and inclusion. That’s the goal of any person and easy to achieve for most.
But for the slightly more than 19 percent of Indiana’s population who have disabilities, that goal is hard to achieve.
“Everybody is the same, but different,” said Michelle Boxell, community relations director for Cardinal Services of Indiana, located in Warsaw. “We want to make sure everyone is treated the same way, have the same opportunity. Nothing would make us happier if everyone we served had a job.” Boxell added, “every one of us knows somebody with a disability.”
Awareness of those with disabilities is the focus each March when Disability Awareness Month is celebrated, led by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities. This year’s theme, “Be Cool. We Are” is about the importance of being comfortable with yourself, making the conscious decision to be yourself and not to act differently around someone with a disability.
Cardinal Services serves 4,000 customers with mild to major disabilities through its variety of programs. These programs range from early head start to living independently. Programs such as Early Head Start, Head Start, Healthy Families and WIC provide growth for customers. CCI Manufacturing, Career Links Employment and KABS provides opportunities and apartment living skills development and family support provides dignity.
There are many opportunities at Cardinal for those with all types of disabilities. At the Cardinal Services building alone, customers can participate in CCI Manufacturing, day services, or create art at the RedBird Art studio.
“Our biggest challenge is we cannot find enough people,” said Boxell. Cardinal Services has close to 500 direct support professionals, with openings for 140 more. The DSPs work one on one with individuals — take a customer out to get coffee, go to a movie, a concert, get a job. Like other employers are finding, “there are not enough people to hire.”
There are many success stories at Cardinal Services. Ranging from communicating for the first time, selling an art piece, and getting a job and earning an income. But perhaps the biggest success is “… when they say I don’t really need you,” said Boxell. “They don’t want staff, or a person around. That’s success.”
Brief Look At Services
Services are provided to children and families. These include Early Head Start, Head Start and Women, Infants & Children, known as WIC. These three programs provide opportunities for children from birth to 5 years of age who are at-risk, providing learning opportunities and nutrition programs. The healthy families program works with parents in setting and achieving goals and raising a healthy child.
For adults with disabilities, there are numerous programs.
Seven of the 11 classrooms available are utilized for day services, which provide social interaction, activities, instruction, work and therapies.
The RedBird Art Studio has tapped hidden talents. For some it opened up hidden communication skills for others hidden creativity has blossomed. These artists create jewelry, pillows, wreaths, paintings, and other forms of art which are sold to the public and the focus of art shows in the community. Some of the artists do commissioned work.
CCI Manufacturing provides jobs for 110 workers who work on parts for companies contracting with CCI. These workers, who work one of two shifts a day, earn a paycheck based on the number of parts they produce. There are approximately 14 companies who contract with CCI. This fiscal year CCI will ship out more than five million parts for customers, with an 8.55 percent return rate. CCI is ISO certified.
“Companies in the community are our real champions,” said Boxell. Numerous adults with disabilities participate in career links where they find and keep good jobs at a variety of area companies ranging from fast food to manufacturing.
Additionally Cardinal Services offers group home and independent living. A nursing home program is also offered for those with developmental disabilities who live in a nursing home. A staff person takes the person out into the community several times per week.
Public transportation is also provided through Kosciusko Area Bus Service. KABS provides public transportation throughout the county for a minimal fee.
Learn more about Cardinal Services at cardinalservices.org.