Sheltered Workshop Profile
Wendy was once told by doctors that she would never work because of her health.
In September of this year, the VIP Industries’ sheltered workshop employee will celebrate two years of employment.
“I’d never thought I’d have a job for two years,” Wendy said. “It feels good to say.”
Before coming to the workshop Wendy was bored. She spent the majority of her days watching TV at home. She didn’t have many opportunities to go places and lived in an unhealthy and unhappy environment.
With the help of some of her relatives she learned about and started working for VIP Industries, a sheltered workshop in Southeast Missouri. In addition to providing employment, VIP also helped provide Wendy with transportation, the opportunity to participate in activities in the community, and an apartment of her own.
"VIP has changed my life," Wendy said.
A Typical Day
Wendy begins her day at 6 a.m., waking up, getting dressed and ready for work. After eating breakfast she heads to the common area in the apartment complex and waits for a van to transport her and the other residents to work.
Once at the workshop, Wendy sets her lunch box down in the lunch room, talks with some of her friends, and then heads to the production floor for an 8:30 a.m. start time. Once roll call has been completed, she begins her job for the day. Most recently she was on a poly-bagging job, where she put several items into a clear plastic bag, including pamphlets, and small boxes.
“I like to do the bags,” Wendy said.
Another job Wendy is typically assigned is sorting paper for shredding and recycling. While she admits it is not her favorite job, she is thankful to have a job and that she can work at her own pace.
There’s also time for socialization as the employees receive two breaks and a lunch period. Many of the employees utilize their breaks and lunches to compete against each other in Wii® bowling tournaments.
If she had to choose, Wendy’s favorite part about working at VIP Industries is being around her friends.
“It’s the people and the staff. They care and want to be here,” she said.
The bell rings at 3 p.m. to signal the end of the work day. Wendy then boards the van with her friends to return to her apartment. At home, she checks her mail and relaxes. While her staff prepares dinner, Wendy helps set the table.
After dinner, sometimes she will get together with the other residents and staff in the common room. There they participate in craft projects, math lessons, games, and movies. Wendy also enjoys exercising, so she often utilizes the exercise equipment provided on-site. Afterwards, it’s time to shower and go to bed.
In addition to having her own apartment and being employed, Wendy also has the opportunity to participate in the Off-Site Day Habilitation (OSDH) program at VIP. OSDH allows the employees the opportunity to participate in new activities and integrate into the community.
“My favorite is pottery,” Wendy said. Once a month, she and a few friends visit Creative Ewe, a local pottery store, and paint a piece of pottery.
Also through the OSDH program, Wendy competes in a summer bowling league with other VIP employees, eats out at restaurants, and is taking a quilting class.
In addition to OSDH activities, employees from all three of VIP’s workshops often get together throughout the year for dinners and dances. Wendy enjoys the opportunity to see her friends from the other workshops.
Last year, Wendy had the opportunity to act in her very first play. Through the Association for persons with Intellectual Disabilities, in conjunction with VIP Industries, Wendy played the part of a Townsperson in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
“That was my first play. I never acted before,” Wendy said, adding that she never thought she would be in a play.
“VIP has changed my life,” Wendy said. “If it wasn’t for VIP, I’d be at home sitting, watching TV.”
The workshop is also a perfect fit for Wendy because of her disabilities. She knows she would not be able to handle a job like working at a fast food restaurant, for example.
“They need to have a fast pace. I don’t have a fast pace,” she said.
The workshop is also accommodating to her needs. For example, when she is experiencing pain in her back, she can bring a pillow in for extra support when sitting at her work area.
Wendy cannot imagine life without the workshop and is glad it is an option for people with developmental disabilities.
“If you have a handicap, it might be easier for you to get a job like this than in a regular job,” she said.