Center offers resources, training; employs people with disabilities

Center offers resources, training; employs people with disabilities

Columbus was featured on KSL on April 21st, 2015. See the story below or on KSL’s website.

SALT LAKE CITY — Cindy Bittle sits next to a conveyor belt, sorting the colored paper from the white paper.

“We’re sorting papers. Taking all the colors off of it,” she said.

She’s worked at the Columbus Community Center for the last 10 years.

She and up to 80 others work for Columbus Secure Document Solutions.

“I like it here because I have friends,” she said.

But her other incentive is the money.

“I get a paycheck, and I can get what I want,” she said.

Stephanie Mackay, director of development, said everybody at Columbus gets a paycheck.

“I think probably payday is the most fun day around here,” she said.

Bittle often uses her paycheck to buy Star Wars related items. They are her favorite movies.

“I get me new coloring book, a new colored pencils, that I can make pictures of,” Bittle said.

But the employees at Columbus have different challenges than other employees.

“Columbus is a full-service provider, and we provide services for individuals with developmental and physical disabilities,” Mackay said.

The center services about 450 people a year through residential services, training and employment or a respite care program.

“Individuals with disabilities have a 65 to a 90 percent unemployment rate, depending on the level of disability,” Mackay said.

With some training and transportation assistance, many work for local businesses.

Individuals with disabilities have a 65 to a 90 percent unemployment rate, depending on the level of disability.

–Stephanie Mackay, director of development

“They’re either working here at Columbus in one of our six business lines that we operate, or they’re working for employers out in the community,” she said.

The shredding business started about 12 years ago.

“It was identified as a great opportunity to employ a lot of people with severe disabilities,” she said. “It’s our largest business unit.”

Jeff Watts has worked at Columbus since 2003.

“I think my favorite one is shredding. Definitely, yeah,” he said. “I work here from Monday and Friday.”

He said he likes working there a lot. And like Bittle, he also gets paid.

“I love my money,” he said. “Very much.”

During her time at Columbus, Mackay has realized the identity people build around the work they do.

“One of the things I’ve come to appreciate working at Columbus is the dignity of work,” Mackay said.

Bittle uses some of her earnings on her family.

“Sometimes when I get a paycheck I take my family out to dinner,” Bittle said. “I’m happy because I can do that for my mom and dad and my brother.”

Mackay said it means everything to them as it does to anyone who gets a paycheck.

“It feels really good,” Watts said. “It feels good that I get, well, lots of money.”

Watts is saving up his money for a special trip.

“I’ve been saving a lot,” he said. “It’s actually in May, so it’s a birthday surprise.”

He said he’s going to Disneyland.

“Yeah, it’s my favorite happy place,” he said.

“I think my favorite one is shredding. Definitely, yeah,” he said. “I work here from Monday and Friday,” Jeff Watts said. (KSL-TV)

Columbus also offers a gathering place for retired employees.

“We started with a handful of people in a retirement program and since then it’s really morphed into a retirement day activity program,” Mackay said.

It also serves as a respite care program for those who need it.

“It’s the fun place. They play bingo; they go out on field trips,” she said. “We keep the dollar store in business.”

Mackay said it’s impossible to have a bad day at work when she goes to Columbus and sees the happy, hardworking people there.

“Over the years that I’ve been here, I’ve really seen people grow to their full potential, and I’ve seen them really just blossom as human beings,” Mackay said. “There are folks that are just fully integrated into the community and really having fun.”

Watts summed it up pretty well when he said, “It’s really much important, and I am full potential and all.”

Those interested in more information on the center and the services can visit www.columbusserves.org

 

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