In life there are typically medicines and other various aids which can make the individual whole. However, there are situations that can’t be fixed, but only through diagnosis and diligently managed.
The United Way hosted a bus tour around St. Joseph to showcase some of these services. The reason being sometimes they can go easily unnoticed by those that drive by them every day. But when you walk inside their doors the importance behind the services are easily recognizable.
The Vine & Barley bus line drove the group to United Cerebral Palsy, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations Community Services and Specialty Industries. Each bus stop was explained and typically with multiple heart-warming stories about the individuals and greater community they help.
Tour guide Renita Neville is the campaign director for the United Way of Greater St. Joseph.
“The United Way network is there for people regardless of your socioeconomic status,” Neville said.
“You never know, one day to the next, who might need the services of one of our partner agencies.”
The first stop was UCP which does more than treat people with impaired muscle coordination. They also provide a learning environment for children and adults with down syndrome and autism.
The Director of Children’s Program Heather Weddle told a story of how UCP had recently worked with a boy that had broken his leg. The organization was able to teach him how to get comfortable operating crutches before his first day of school.
The preschool at UCP offers side-by-side education for students that experience development delays and others that do not. The importance of which shows how the school learns as a community.
The adult classrooms work on various projects. One in particular was easily seen as postcards from different states were taped to the walls. The students research each state they receive a postcard from and place interesting facts near the postcard.
The classroom still is looking for postcards sent from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Their address is UCP Enrichment, 3303 Frederick Avenue, St. Joseph MO 64506.
The second bus stop was AFL-CIO located on 6th Street near Robidoux Row. Executive Director Penny Adams admitted the organization sometimes “lives on a wing and a prayer,” by the way the turnaround every donation they receive and direct it to those in need.
The services they provide include the Adopt-A-Family Christmas, Fab-U-Less Finds Thrift Store, the Souls for Christ children shoes program, Lions Club Eyeglasses and the Help-Me-Now hotline which connects individuals with various resources. The call specialists help with things like affordable housing, food and clothing, including diapers.
The last bus stop was Specialty Industries, located near U.S. Highway 169 and Leonard Road. The 100,000 square foot warehouse employs adults with learning disabilities. They have 98 employees and a staff of 14. During the tour of the warehouse employees were preparing shipments of cat food and tequila.
President and CEO Paul Bridenstine said Specialty Industries provides a non-competitive environment for their employees. However, the company also has helped prepare some of their employees for careers with different companies.