Travis’ Story at Royal Oak United Methodist Church, Michigan
Some churches provide unpaid day training opportunities, which may eventually lead to paid employment. Fred Bowden, building manager and head custodian at Royal Oak United Methodist Church in Royal Oak, Michigan is proud of the congregational ministry he helped develop. Five days a week, six to eight participants arrive from local agencies that serve adults with disabilities. Fred greets the workers with a smile and written lists of tasks to be done. Job coaches accompany the workers, and give direct supervision as needed.
Travis Walls is a church member with a disability who works several days a week with Fred. His mother, Laurie O’Donnell, reports that Fred has helped Travis develop a stronger work ethic as well as expand his skills. Fred recognizes that tasks such as helping prepare cooked meals and sack lunches for the church’s outreach ministry, doing laundry, and cleaning translate into skills the participants can use at home. Other tasks include paper shredding and setting up tables and chairs.
Fred believes that the church offers a safe haven where individuals can learn work skills in a friendly environment, free from the prejudice often encountered in the outside world. Fred knows the workers by name, and treats them age-appropriately as fellow employees. Church staff and members also get to know and interact with the participants.
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