Genesis evolves in multiple directions

Thursday, June 9, 2016
Job coach Crystal Jenson and client Molly Wissink restock jeans at Goodwill Industries. / Photos by Mick Polich

When the Genesis Development can redemption center closed last fall, the Genesis management staff caught an earful from the area general public -- redeeming their bottle and can money, and the place to dump their empties, was at the top of the public gripe list, a huge disconnect.

What they, the public, didn't realize is the myriad of other services that Genesis has quietly offered around town for many years, in employing their clients through programs that help local employers take care of the little details of keeping the doors open, and the floors shined. Cleaning services, in-store inventory restocking, food line services, and a host of other offerings and opportunities have seemingly flown under the radar, as the can redemption service was the one thing that stuck in the minds of the general public.

"I had heard from employers, when promoting our various job programs, that they were surprised that we offered more services other than can redemption," says Anita Shable, Genesis operations manager.

When Anita interviews prospects for positions, or offers for them to come in and 'job shadow' employees, she hears the amazement in their tone and comments regarding all the services Genesis does offer. Genesis, a non-profit organization that has 10 offices around Iowa, offers people with disabilities, or "clients," a chance to work in supervised crews that clean for local businesses, work at the Jack Links and Merrill plants several days per week, and provide in-house services such as rain gauge production, and promotional printing. But if you enter any Storm Lake business year round, you are more than likely to see a Genesis client working along with a Genesis-trained job coach -- restocking inventory, cleaning shelves, vacuuming, dusting, and just helping out with any of the day to day details that could get lost when businesses get busy.

It's a win-win situation for everyone involved, and only strengthens the power to provide good service. But the big goal is to provide people with disabilities opportunities to have real jobs, and a chance at greater integration into the local community.

"Our services are always evolving, and changing, whether it's the right thing to do for our business, or the right thing to do for our funding providers," says Anita. "So, we needed to make a decision on the in-house services we offer, which one was the redemption center. The redemption center, really, was losing money, but by having it the center didn't give our clients a chance to integrate more fully into the community. The only reason we continued to do redemption was that it provided jobs for our clients. Of course, when you make changes in business, you need to give up something, so closing the can redemption center was the clear cut choice."

By the time the can redemption center was closing, plans were already in the works to move clients to other work opportunities in the community, with more job coaches being hired and trained to work with in the new job movement forward. As a result, not many Genesis clients were displaced, and were allowed to move to other positions locally.

Anita Shable

Genesis prides itself at training its staff and clients at being discreet and professional on the job, while instilling a sense of accomplishment for all involved. "People do see us out at the work site, and we try our best to blend in, but while we are at the work site, we are working for that particular business, so we try to get a sense of what to do to help that business run better. Customers notice details, and we try to help with that by doing value-added work. It's not charity, because we add to the bottom line with our work force," says Anita.

The job coach who works along side each client, is a unique position, according to Anita. "You need people who are caring, compassionate, patient, and have a natural ability to teach. You also have to be professional, have good communication skills with employers on the job, and really, be pretty good at a lot of different jobs," says Anita. Job coaches need to anticipate employer and client needs, as well, so a certain amount of sensitivity comes into play.

Adult and student programs exist through Genesis to help train clients for finding, getting, and keeping a job. These programs run year round, and are taught at the Genesis/Storm Lake center, Storm Lake High School, and Buena Vista University by trained Genesis staff. The courses run several weeks, and show clients how to figure out a job area they would like to work in, fill out job applications, dress for success for a job interview, how to work along side other employees, and other aspects of work culture. One program in focus has been the EBCE program, an internship program for young people that was started last year. The program puts the clients in job site internships around town to try out jobs, and give them a ' real world ' assessment of what they might like to do for employment. So far, the program has been a success, according to Anita. "When you're younger, you really don't have an idea what you might like to do for work, or the chance to try something out, but this program provides those opportunities, and again, we are helping local businesses at the same time."

Real jobs providing value-added work, and creating win-win situations for all involved -- the goal of Genesis Development, and it's community impact. Next time you grumble, gripe, and groan about where to take your cans and bottles to get a few sheckles, pause and take a moment to consider the many other ways that Genesis is giving you your money's worth in your town.

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