The following was released on Tuesday, December 10, 2019:
Fort Wayne, Ind. – Mayor Tom Henry today joined representatives from Easterseals Arc of Northeast Indiana, the City of Fort Wayne's Community Development Division and City Council to announce that there is an agreement in place to begin implementing a portion of the City's quality of life plan that was approved in October.
The partnership with Easterseals Arc is focused on vocational assessment and skills training, workforce development and accessibility for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This programming opportunity is a result of additional revenue collected by the State of Indiana through income taxes and distributed to the City of Fort Wayne. Mayor Henry's Administration and City Council worked collaboratively to approve the quality of life plan that also includes addressing the opioid challenge by working with The Lutheran Foundation and Fort Wayne Police Department and enhancing neighborhoods through funding to the four neighborhood area partnerships in addition to the partnership with Easterseals Arc.
Easterseals Arc will use the designated $500,000 project funding to foster employment success and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities through initiatives that will impact individuals and their families in multiple ways. Based on the needs of local employers, Easterseals Arc will develop three learning and simulation labs designed to assess individual interests and skills; provide instruction and hands-on practice to develop specific skills transferable to in-demand industries; and offer on-the-job coaching and support as needed for ongoing success.
“Companies and organizations in Fort Wayne have shown their willingness to include and embrace individuals with disabilities as part of their employment base. More than 60% of individuals served by Easterseals Arc are enrolled in employment-related services now,” said Mayor Henry. “By providing a larger, trained workforce, we'll be improving the quality of life for employees and employers, and Fort Wayne will be a more inclusive and stronger city.”
Easterseals Arc has determined that utilizing existing space will be the most efficient use of the funding, therefore, will construct the learning labs and update equipment at their Coldwater Road campus. They will purchase two transit vehicles with lifts in order to provide transportation to employment and vocational training experiences for a greater number of individuals, and will make needed repairs and upgrades to improve accessibility, safety and comfort at the campus.
Although the project will be based at Easterseals Arc's facility, it will include significant collaboration with area employers and other organizations to develop and support this new workforce.
“We are incredibly grateful for the city of Fort Wayne's dedication to supporting individuals with disabilities,” said Donna Elbrecht, president and CEO of Easterseals Arc. “We are proud to contribute to a stronger, more inclusive community by partnering with the city to help people prepare for success in the workforce. With low unemployment, many companies are struggling to find workers. At the same time, people with disabilities are an overlooked talent pool. These funds will help us take our employment services to the next level and prepare individuals to fill jobs that are needed in this area.”
In 2017, Fort Wayne was named an Ability City by Ability Indiana as a recognition of the community's commitment to supporting the employment of individuals with disabilities. Also, in 2017, Fort Wayne and Allen County partnered in the creation of the City-County Disability Advisory Council to assist in providing equal access for people with disabilities with employment, services, programs, and activities.
Easterseals Arc offers a broad range of services including employment services, day programs, residential services, recreation, respite, and support in the community and at home. For more information, visit https://www.easterseals.com/neindiana/