A Little Holiday Inspiration from Jake

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Dear friends, family and supporters of LIFEDesigns 

With the holiday season currently underway we wanted to recognize the amazing things that have occurred in 2019. Most of you should be aware, in May of 2019 we were able to increase all employee wages by $3.00 per hour. This is a significant investment for us, and one our board feels is very important to improving our services for our clients.  Since making this commitment, we’ve already started seeing some positive changes, such as: 

  • We’ve stopped using temporary staffing since September (which is a significant cost savings!)
  • We’re seeing more experienced applicants for Direct Support Professional roles.
  • We’re starting to be able to provide  more services to our clients.

We’re very excited to see these changes and look forward to seeing more positive results in 2020.

While Kristen was talking with Jake, she asked him a very simple question: “Why is LIFEDesigns important to you?” Jake’s response touched all of us here, and we wanted to share that with you:

“I’m grateful to all my friends at LIFEDesigns. You are all family to me. All I ever wanted was a family to love me.”

Jake began using LIFEDesigns for services over 20 years ago, as a young child. He receives employment services, supported living services, and hopes to be paired with a LIFEMentor volunteer soon. Because of these services, Jake has had many opportunities that HE has made the most of! Jake works 2 jobs, volunteers at WonderLab, is a member of Kiwanis Aktion Club, plans a talent show, and started the All Abilities Choir. Jake has many friends and enjoys the independent life he created for himself. We’re proud to have been there with him to provide the supports he needed. As someone who’s supported LIFEDesigns, you should feel equally responsible for providing this opportunity along with many others to our over 420 clients.  THANK YOU!

Meet Jewel

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Jewel is a very talented musician and artist. She came to LIFEDesigns for help finding a job. During the time we’ve been working with her, in addition to employment services we’ve hosted a work experience for her, contracted her to paint a painting for our office lobby, hired her temporarily to assist with graphic designs for the Week of Chocolate event marketing, and hired her to play her cello at some of our events. Jewel is amazing. She has so much to offer to employers, friends, and the community. Jewel has worked with a few different employment consultants with us. She is currently working with our newest employment consultant Jennifer Jones. Jennifer has a background in art and graphic design. Her pairing with Jewel has been serendipitous. Jennifer is currently working with Jewel to help her develop her art portfolio and giving her ideas for new projects to work on which will enhance her portfolio. Jewel is very excited at the prospect of working with Jennifer and focusing on further developing her graphic design portfolio.

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Jewel’s painting hanging in LIFEDesigns lobby
Jewel’s father really enjoys listening to her play music. When we asked Jewel to play background music at an event on her cello, she was very excited, and spent hours at home practicing and preparing for the event. We received so many compliments from guests at the first event, that we invited Jewel to play at our Donor Reception this month! She’s looking forward to it, and it’s a great opportunity for her to earn some extra cash while refining her skills and presenting herself publicly as a professional musician. We’re also planning on her playing her keyboard at the Art of Chocolate February 22, 2020 featuring jazz numbers during the social hour before dinner.

Jewel is currently seeking employment. She is looking for part-time, full-time, temporary, or contract based work either as a graphic designer, painter, or musician. If you’re interested in hiring Jewel for a party, contracting some graphic design or drawing/painting artwork out, or interviewing her for a position, please contact jljones@lifedesignsinc.org.

Angel Tree Party

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On Wednesday, November 14, the LIFEDesigns office was filled with extra holiday cheer in celebration of our Angel Tree Ornament Decorating Party! This party was held so that our clients could have a warm, friendly space to craft small angel ornaments as a gift to the community member who fulfilled their angel wish list. LIFEDesigns staff got into the spirit as well. Holiday music was played from the overhead speakers, hot chocolate and cookies were served, and our office manager, Vern Hageman greeted clients and their staff dressed as an elf. This event was great for our clients as they got to interact with friends they hadn’t seen in awhile and staff members too.

The decorated ornaments will be displayed on the Angel Trees at German American Bank locations in Bloomington and Bedford for community members to select and fulfill this year’s holiday wishes.

Job-A-Palooza 2019

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LIFEDesigns and Stone Belt proudly collaborated to create an event, funded by a grant from Duke Energy for $5,500. This allowed individuals with disabilities to try out a wide variety of jobs in one day. On Wednesday, October 23, 2019, the Warehouse was open to Job-A-Palooza participants for a day to talk with local employers in different fields, try out different tasks and jobs from each business, and participate in mock interviews.

Throughout the day, participants were able to visit and chat with each employer at their booth. As part of the registration process, attendees were given a set of questions regarding their interest and abilities, and then matched with an employer that best fit with their responses. Mock interviews were also held during this time, where individuals had the opportunity to participate in an interview and was followed up with feedback from our mock interviewers.

Mayor's Proclamation

The City of Bloomington Mayor’s Proclamation was also read at the event, which stated the October 2019 as Disability Awareness Month in Bloomington, Indiana. A statement from the Proclamation: “WHEREAS, Bloomington is a model employer for individuals with disabilities, and understands that competitive employment in the community is the first and preferred outcome for all working-age people with disabilities.”

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Jake and Robert got to try out their skills at several different stations during this event, and learned some things they didn’t know before. Like many people, Jake was a bit hesitant to try many of the skills stations. Jake is an extremely outgoing person, and generally loves to be social. Yet, when it came to putting yourself out there and trying something new, it was a difficult challenge for him. Walking around the event for the first time, he decided he didn’t want to try any of the stations. Walking around a second time with Kristen to support him, he still didn’t want to try any of the stations…until he saw someone he knew at one of the stations. They waved him over and encouraged him to try the station out. When he was finished he saw his scoring, and when he saw how well he performed he got very excited. This led to him trying other stations, and generally exploring a lot of possibilities he never would have considered. There were many other stories similar to this where, someone discovered a job that they wouldn’t have previously considered. There were also several requests from businesses that they wanted to actually interview some of the candidates that they met through the event for open positions they currently have. Overall, this was a huge success and lots of fun for everyone involved.

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The employer lineup for the day included:

Stone Belt
LIFEDesigns
SCCAP
IU Health Community Health
U.S. Census Bureau
Indiana Institute on Disability and Community – Indiana University
Domino’s
AMC Theatres
Williams Brothers Health Care Pharmacy
Sazon Mexican Cuisine
My Sister’s Closet
Upland Brewing Company
Cook Medical
Kroger’s
Monroe County Humane Association
Callie & Company Entertainment
Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity
Chick Fil A
Community Ford Lincoln of Bloomington
Salt Creek Cycles
One World Catering
One World at Woolery Mill
Work To Include

Joel & Alex, Friends for LIFE

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When Joel knocked on Stephanie Shelton’s office one day back in 2018, he didn’t know that he was about to impact one of our client’s lives in such a positive way. Joel had recently moved to Bloomington in order to take a new job. In an effort to explore Bloomington, he sought opportunities to volunteer and LIFEDesigns was located a few blocks from his house. Joel was quickly immersed in our LIFEMentor  program which partners a community member with a client for mentorship. The LIFEMentor program places community members in supported friendships with LIFEDesigns clients who don’t receive enough state funding to cover very many staffing hours. This really accomplishes several things:

  1. It teaches community members how they can invite a person with a disability into their life as a friend.
  2. It facilitates the beginning of new friendships for people with disabilities (who so often have few people in their lives outside of staff or family members).
  3. It promotes real community inclusion for people with disabilities.
  4. It fosters independence through natural supports and relationship building.

Joel was matched with Alex. They quickly bonded and embarked on numerous events such as IU football games, scooter rides around town, and even volunteering during IU move in. Additionally, when Alex recently wanted more hours for work, he wasn’t able to get support through Vocational Rehabilitation. But because Joel was in his life, he was able to find a new job at Walmart with Joel’s guidance and support throughout the application and interview process. If it weren’t for this new connection in his life, Alex wouldn’t be able to leave his home very often for fun or social activities. 

Before volunteering at LIFEDesigns, Joel had never worked with the special needs community and believes that his experience as a mentor has helped him “become more humble and self-aware.” Joel believes that volunteering with individuals unlike himself makes you a richer person.

Watch this video on YouTube to listen to a bit more of Alex and Joel’s story: https://youtu.be/0EnJJZsYf20

If you are interested in becoming a LIFEMentor please contact Kristen King at kking@lifedesignsinc.org 

William’s Success

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When William moved from Indianapolis to Columbus, Indiana, he struggled to find a job. He had moved looking for a change and turned to LIFEDesigns for support in finding employment.  Although William is a natural homebody, he enjoys talking to people, dogs, and camping. William worked with employment specialist, Ben Garlic in order to find a job that suited his personality and goals. He was not sure that he would be able to find a job, but Ben believed in him and encouraged him to put effort into job hunting.  Within a few months, William began to work as a greeter at Waffle House. He became responsible for assisting customers and keeping the restaurant clean. When asked what he enjoys most he responded, “I like talking to people. I was talking to a lady last weekend for twenty minutes about what we were doing. The other employees didn’t say anything. They like it when I do that.” William enjoys the support he gets from LIFEDesigns and he especially likes that he can snack during meetings with Ben. Ben has enjoyed working with William. He has watched William put effort into first getting his job and now improving his communication skills. William now wants to make his job, a career. “Look at me now, who would have thought I would be here now after a few months,” William exclaims. We are proud of what William has accomplished and how Ben was able to support him to achieve his goals. William’s story is just one of the many stories of success that our clients have been able to accomplish. This and other stories are only possible through the generous gifts from donors like you!