This service assists people in finding employment in or near their communities, and is very individualized. The process for new referrals begins with an extensive group intake session in which Community Options’ staff meets with the person and any interested family members, friends, and others who have played a significant role in the person’s life. The objective is to get as complete a picture of the person and his/her aspirations before the job search begins. This process continues over time, as staff get to know people well in order to know best what directions to pursue.
Employment is again pursued on an individual basis; the agency does not arrange for group placements with local employers, nor does it provide ongoing job “coaching”. Rather, Job Developers work carefully to find jobs which match personal preferences and abilities, identify the specific support needs that might be required, and arrange that those supports come from supervisors and/or co-workers on the job. Regular, ongoing contact is maintained with both the employer and individual as needed throughout employment.
Community Options works with local school districts to help students acquire work experience as they near the end of their academic careers. This helps students to develop valuable work skills and habits; learn how things operate in the workplace, and appropriate interaction with their peers and supervisors; develop a sense of confidence that can ease the transition as they prepare to leave school. These placements are pursued in the same manner as any community-based employment position (focusing on natural supports), although unpaid internships might also be pursued if consistent with the student’s IEP, and if it allows the person to gain critical work experience they otherwise lack.
For the small number of people that Community Options supports, we assist the development of their own businesses. Over the years, we have realized that while each person has their own unique talents and gifts, there are some people who excel in certain areas. Witnessing this, we have helped people develop businesses in various fields such as: painting, jewelry-making, landscape design, and lawn care. Currently-supported businesses include: Sew Sweet, a sewing business; two individuals who have their own photography businesses; and one person who runs her own snack box business.
There are many “do’s and don’ts” of the working world to learn about and navigate which are important, not only in helping to secure a job, but also to hold onto it. For individuals with developmental disabilities, these can oftentimes be difficult to appreciate or understand. Community Options offers classes which address these issues, and help people learn about the workplace culture and what is expected of them. Classes cover a wide array of topics including: interviewing skills; having a positive work ethic; proper personal hygiene; social skills in the workplace; human rights, and addressing problems or concerns on the job. Other related discussions touch on larger issues like communicating effectively, and developing relationships. In most cases, these classes are attended by individuals who are between jobs, or employed part-time, and can attend on off days.
A small gift, craft, and antique shop located in Belchertown, MA and run by the agency, Rannsaka employs a few of Community Options’ consumers on a part-time basis. People help make crafts, refinish furniture, and keep the shop clean. A popular local seasonal product of Rannsaka is old fashioned sugar eggs available just before Easter. The shop helps contribute to the agency’s operating expenses, and connects people to the community. It’s a great place to find all sorts of trinkets and treasures!
PACE (Promoting Accomplishments during Community Experiences):
PACE is a community-based day service that supports people who are of retirement age and people for whom working full-time is not yet their goal. Nonetheless, they want to remain active.
This service operates much like the employment supports. It begins with the person, their unique interests and talents, and their communities. We strive to connect people with their senior centers or other businesses doing activities that are of particular interest so that people are feeling fulfilled & productive. Ideally, people are being given the opportunity to meet other community members with whom they can share their common interests. Some activities that people have enjoyed are: tending a garden, playing pool, going to a horse show, taking a painting class, archery, and attending a cooking class.