When Adult Services Director Linda Alger began her career with Perkins’ adults 25 years ago, she could not have fathomed how quickly the vocational program would grow. In 2010, her census of employed adults was 18. Today, she employs 58, and she expects to pause and catch her breath when she reaches 70 – likely by the beginning of the year.
This puts her growth at over 200% in just five years. The secret to success, in Linda’s words, is two-fold. “One is due to the closing of all center- based work locations as part of a Department of Development Services Initiative,” she said. “The second, more important reason, is because we offer such a unique program.”
Zach enjoys working on a winter craft.
Linda’s program not only offers a large variety of job options, she also pays well and she has a variety of classes and activities to stimulate the mind outside of work hours. “We add a lot of extras for our employees,” Linda said. “I am able to give them more opportunities here.” So many opportunities, in fact, that one young man, who is soon to age out of another school, has a handmade poster over his bed that reads, “Perkins or Bust.”
Perkins’ vocational adult population works in many areas of the community and on the Perkins campus. There are two Clean Teams – one works on campus and one works off campus – there are also employees in Perkins Rein in a Dream Program, in the Perkins’ kitchen and the Child Development Center. Some also work in the community gardens and the laundry area located at the Perkins Barlow Center.
Perkins Adult Services program has also implemented an Independent Living Classroom Instruction section. This is a 20 week class offered to individuals who live at home or in the community who need to learn to be more self-sufficient. “We have a lot to offer for a young man or woman,” Linda said. “We have several jobs available for our employees, but sometimes if nothing works or feels right I develop good options. We also have lots of extra activities to keep them busy outside of their work hours.”
A happy group of creative souls.
The craft shop offers something for everyone, and is a favorite place for most of the adults to spend time outside of work. They create everything from wood products to Christmas decorations, and are excited to offer their wares to the public soon. The downstairs location of the Barlow Center will soon house a store showcasing these crafts. “This is a great way to employ more people,” Linda said. “I expect to create 20 new jobs between the store, a coffee shop, and a small sandwich job.” Linda believes strongly that giving people purpose is key. “My ultimate goal is to find meaningful work for these individuals.”
Due to the success of the program, Linda receives referrals from across the state. “We serve adults from as far away as Framingham and Ashland. These parents drive their adult children here every day because, Linda says, “I have high expectations of my people. I tell them all the time that they are an example to every disabled person in the community. I know they are good citizens with good values, and I am proud to be associated with them.”