Arc’s Value Village & Minnesota Life College Partner to Make a Difference

_MG_4339 290 square for blogAs you shop at Arc’s Value Village Richfield, you’re benefitting The Arc Great Twin Cities advocacy services, but did you know that you’re also supporting students at Minnesota Life College (MLC)?  MLC is a vocational and life skills training program for young adults with learning differences and autism spectrum disorders.  For more than 10 years, MLC has partnered with Arc’s Value Village to help students develop healthy work habits, practice social skills and gain valuable work experience to prepare them for future long-term employment.

Last year, more than 20 MLC students worked 12 hours a week throughout the semester, sorting donations, stocking shelves, and interacting with guests and co-workers – work often made more challenging by students’ varying disabilities. Sherryl Bandt, The Community Partnerships Coordinator for MLC says, “Many of our students come without an extensive work history; in fact, some of them have never worked at all.  For some of our students, managing their anxiety enough to simply go to work is a huge challenge. For others, their learning differences might make it difficult for them to understand social cues.”

Richfield store manager Theresa Munoz explains, “We provide the students learning opportunities.  If one task doesn’t work, you move on to another and then another, checking in with (MLC job coach) Ben and the student to see what’s working and what’s not working.  Eventually something always works out.  Munoz applauds the students’ growth in interacting with customers.  “They are always willing to go out of their way to smile and greet our shoppers,” she says.  “If we had paid positions for greeters, we would have no trouble filling them with MLC students!”

Indeed, some students are such a great fit at Arc’s Value Village that they have been hired for paid positions. Both Even and Kari (pictured) are sales associates at the Richfield store. Evan has been employed with Arc’s Value Village for nine years and Kari for six and a half._MG_4345 Evan for blog

This spring, The Arc Greater Twin Cities was recognized as MLC’s Organization Community Champion of the Year, a new initiative to honor MLC’s partners in the community. Bandt says, “The most wonderful part of our partnership with Arc’s Value Village is that we have developed a deep and abiding respect for each other and the missions of our organizations. We at MLC know we can always count on the support of the staff at The Arc, and they in turn can count on ours.”

Greg Rue, Facilities and Donations Manager at Arc’s Value Village added, “The award is a great reminder to those of us who work at Arc’s Value Village that we are making a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

Guest blogger Chloe Ahlf.

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