Supporting People at Work Through Community Partnerships

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Supporting People at Work Through Community Partnerships

You may know the Salvation Army best for its annual “Red Kettle” fundraising campaign or its thrift stores located across our region. However, you may not realize that the organization, whose motto is “Doing the Most Good,” plays a key role in helping local residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities prepare for, find, and succeed at paid community employment. In fact, the Salvation Army has been partnering with Skills’ Employment Services program in Blair County since 2014.

Partnering for Good

“The Salvation Army has really helped Skills over the years,” says Brent Wyandt, an Employment Training Specialist at Skills who works closely with the Salvation Army. “They provide many opportunities so the people we support through our Employment Services program can develop the skills they need to find and succeed at a job with a local business.” Wyandt explains that several of the people Skills supports serve as bell ringers for the Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle fundraiser. The Salvation Army and Skills also work together to provide paid work experiences for students, and community-based work assessments for those enrolled in Skills’ Employment Services program. The people Skills supports help sort clothes and other merchandise at the Salvation Army’s local processing facility, and in the process, they develop job skills and learn about workplace etiquette and self-advocacy.

The partnership is a meaningful one, according to Captain Larry Fulmer of the Altoona Salvation Army. “Skills comes alongside us to help with our biggest fundraiser of the year,” Fulmer explains. “Our most recent campaign raised $89,000, and Skills bell ringers brought in more than half of that.” Fulmer says that one of the most rewarding aspects of the partnership is seeing how people grow and develop through the process. “They become more confident and they feel more connected to the community,” he explains.

Supporting Growth

One such person is Gilbert Gutshall. Gilbert is well known in the community as he also works at Weis Markets. He has been receiving support from Skills’ Employment Services team since 2014. Gilbert has been bell-ringing for over six years. In fact, during the bell-ringing season, Gilbert will work at Weis and also bell-ring for the Salvation Army during his time off. Gilbert has grown tremendously with the help of Skills’ Employment Services team over the years. In addition, the partnership with the Salvation Army has helped him become more successful when it comes to working and giving back to the community.

Gilbert, in green, is pictured bell-ringing with (L-R) Employment Training Specialist Brent Wyandt, Regional Vice President Cathy Mcfee, and Career Developer Sherry Gearhart

Our Employment Services team helps the people they support by providing career assessments to help identify their interests, abilities, and goals. They also help with job searching, resume building, and interview skills. At the same time, Skills helps local employers by identifying potential new employees whose interests are closely matched with the employer’s needs. Our team also provides on-the-job support to help ensure the employees succeed.

Skills works with many community partners throughout Central PA, and we’re always looking to partner with more businesses and organizations who see the benefits of integrating people with disabilities into their workforce. “Many local businesses are still having difficulty finding employees,” Wyandt explains. “We have a great group of people who are skilled, friendly, and excited about finding a job today.”

If you’re a business owner interested in learning more about how Skills can help your business find its next great employee, contact us today!


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