Breaking down the barriers

Volunteerism is a selfless act in which community members can become involved.

Nishna Productions Inc (NPI) Shenandoah Day Habilitation group are launching their Bee-a-Buddy Program in February.

Members of the community interested in being a volunteer in the program will have the opportunity to visit with NPI Day Habilitation clients participating in the program at the Shenandoah facility located at 902 Day St., in a setting in which they are familiar.

Emily Martin, Development Specialist with NPI, said the Bee-a-Buddy Program is designed to facilitate opportunities for individuals with disabilities to meet members of the community.

“The whole idea is to start breaking down the barriers between adults with disabilities and the rest of the community,” said Martin. “We’re trying to build friendships between members of the community and our clients.”

Martin said benefits of volunteering extend far beyond the agency receiving the volunteers. She said some studies point to the health benefits of volunteering for the volunteer.

Martin said Day Habilitation is a service that provides NPI clients an opportunity for socialization and skill development and focuses on supporting individuals to be active members of their community. She said clients participating in Day Habilitation have disabilities that hinder them from obtaining jobs in the community.

NPI implemented the Bee-a-Buddy Program with the Red Oak Day Habilitation clients last spring. Martin said the program has been well received in the Red Oak community.

“We have a pretty routine schedule in Red Oak,” said Martin. “Four times a month, we do something with the Day Hab group either out in the community or we bring volunteers into the center and we do different activities.”

Martin said NPI partnered with the Red Oak YMCA when they launched the program. She said the YMCA sponsored several events with their staff coming as volunteers. She said this is an ideal situation.

“It’s just perfect when an organization or business will commit their staff to four events a month,” said Martin. “Then we help highlight their business as well.”

A popular activity for the Bee-a-Buddy program in Red Oak is working in the friendship garden.

Martin said the Shenandoah facility has a garden, and the agency is applying for a grant to purchase raised garden beds. She said a lot of their clients don’t have the capability to get down on the ground, so raised beds will enable more clients to be able to work in the gardens.

Martin said NPI would be scheduling visits for the Bee-a-Buddy Program to various businesses and organizations in Shenandoah. She said NPI would host activities at their location at 902 Day St. that may include but are not limited to baking, gardening, crafts, games or puzzles.

“We’re going to visit the mayor at city hall and get a tour,” said Martin. “It’s nice to have the endorsement of the city leadership when we start going out into the community. So, I always like to make that our first stop.”

Martin said as volunteer relationships grow through the Bee-a-Buddy program, opportunities for more one-on-one interaction may be created. She said in Red Oak, members of the community have become regular volunteers.

“There is one couple that has adopted one of our residential houses,” said Martin. “Once a month they do something with the residents of that house. They take them to their house and do a movie night, or they’ll do cookouts. They do something in a social setting that’s outside of our intervention.”

Martin said individuals volunteering with their clients outside of the Bee-a-Buddy Program have to be cleared through a background check.

Martin said they are always looking for community events to help with. She said their top priority is to ensure the safety of their clients. She said staff would be present at all of the Bee-a-Buddy Program events.

“We are always looking for opportunities to get involved in the community,” said Martin. “We would just appreciate the community being open-minded and if they have any ideas or they would like to invite us we would love to hear about it.”

Martin said NPI serves more than 220 clients and has an office providing Day Habilitation services in Glenwood, Red Oak, and Shenandoah. They have 24 residential homes across Shenandoah, Red Oak, Glenwood, Malvern, Sidney, Tabor and Clarinda. She said they also serve clients that live on their own or with parents by providing a couple hours of support throughout the week.

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