Newbold: Programs Employing People Helping Adults with Disabilities

Many PEP employees shred documents for businesses in Philadelphia.

Every day, more than 200 adults with intellectual disabilities from across greater Philadelphia get out of bed and go to work in part due to the efforts of the staff at Programs Employing People.

The program, which started as a summer camp for kids with disabilities in 1969, now trains adults with disabilities so they can become self-sufficient and live more meaningful lives. The South Philadelphia nonprofit has a team of coaches and trainers who help the adults learn skills needed for their desired work.

Heather Kuzowsky, who oversees PEP’s vocational and community integration programs, said people who come through their program often do better than people who do not have a disability.

“Statistically, our guys don’t show up late as much [as people without disabilities] and don’t take off as much,” she said. “They’re everything you’d want in an employee.” w=500 h=281]

Many businesses throughout the city including the Wells Fargo Center and the Rittenhouse Claridge apartments employ multiple PEP adults, but many stay right on-site working one of PEP’s large in-house operations.  One of PEP’s most successful programs is PEP Shred, an on-site document destruction facility. A van travels throughout the city to different businesses that pay PEP employees to properly destroy their documents.

PEP also has an on-site bowling alley accessible to everyone in the surrounding community.  Thirty percent of PEP Bowl’s staff is made up of PEP’s own people.

The bowling alley, now almost five-years old,  is one of their most successful ventures – so much so that it won the 2012 award for best bowling alley by Philadelphia Magazine.

Graham Gill, executive director of Programs Employing People, said the bowling alley has helped offset cuts the state has made to special needs programs. The BYOB bowling alley hosts an annual King of the Hill tournament, which helped raise more than $7,000 last year.

In addition to vocational training, PEP also offers adult literacy programs teaching teamwork, mathematics and other skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. The PEP senior program, known as the golden branch, is another on site-facility where adults with intellectual disabilities can come and watch TV together or create different types of artwork. The Community Arts for Socialization allows participants to communicate non-verbally through art by painting flower pots, making masks and crafting beads.

– Text, video and images by Daniel Hampton.

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