The most recent edition of The Works is now available! Learn about the lives that YOU have impacted as donors and volunteers. You’ll meet some four legged volunteers (and their humans) who are just “paw-some”; learn about our various home settings from full-care homes to shared living; and read about how community employers enhance their businesses while also changing lives when employing people with disabilities. Thank YOU for changing lives!
The most recent edition of The Works is now available! Learn about the lives that YOU have impacted as donors and volunteers. You will be introduced to Bob Lew, the 2022 Suzie Cappa Art Center’s Artist of the Year, who creates beautiful art because of YOU! You will also learn how volunteering can change a life, and how the new transportation coordination software we’re using is connecting people to their fulfilling lives. Thank YOU for changing lives!
The most recent edition of The Works is now available! Learn about the lives that YOU have impacted as donors and volunteers. You will read that, because of YOU, Susan, who has been blind since age 14, received special new glasses that help her read books and recognize people. You will also “meet” the amazing crew that work at Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse, read about EchoWorks’ 2021 Sustainability Award, and much more! Thank YOU for changing lives!
[December 2020] Access to technology is not a luxury, especially for people with disabilities. This is especially true now, due to COVID-19, as the people we support are not as readily able to see their families, connect with friends, or enjoy classes like art, music and dance.
Thanks to two grants, one from the South Dakota Council on Developmental Disabilities (DD Council) and the other from Black Hills by Choice Giving Circle, Black Hills Works is now better positioned to help people make these virtual connections. Both organizations offered grants for the purchase of tablets.
The DD Council grant will result in 30 tablets – a mix of iPad Air and Amazon Fire HD – to be placed in homes to allow for safe and meaningful connections with family and friends, especially now, while also providing access to virtual art, dance and music therapy lessons. The Black Hills by Choice grant will provide for the purchase of 8 iPad Air tablets to be used for a lending library, to be borrowed by individuals or homes as needs arise.
“The impact of technology, even in normal times, cannot be overstated,” said Tammy Murner, Director of Innovation & Assistive Technology. “We support people who, because of technology, are creating art, writing books, cooking meals, working, and living independently. These gifts of tablets – to go into the home and to create a lending library – will literally open up a whole new world for so many more people. The impact is enormous.”
Shad Bebout, a person supported by Black Hills Works, has embraced technology, using his tablet to turn on lights, start a slow cooker, adjust blinds, use the thermostat, and communicate. He is a valued employee at Caramel Creations, a job that has allowed him the resources needed to invest in technology. The new tablets for our homes and lending library will make this possible for others, many of whom do not have the resources.
“Shad is a great self-advocate,” said Tammy. “He researches new applications and proves to us all what is possible. Thanks to the DD Council and Black Hills by Choice, other lives will be transformed in ways we can’t yet imagine.”
#NDEAM: Helping Students with Disabilities Prepare for the Workforce
[May 12, 2021] “I love being around people and having chats while we are working,” said Chloe Gross, a Project Skills participant and intern in the Meals on Wheels kitchen.
This is Chloe’s third internship. She works 10 hours every week for Meals on Wheels, one two Project Skills teens helping to keep the kitchen, cooler and dishes sanitized. She also helps package meals.
Project Skills is a program funded by South Dakota’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation to help students with disabilities, up to age 21, gain important on-the-job training and skills development, while employers enjoy dedicated interns to help with their day-to-day needs. The Rapid City School District works closely with Black Hills Works’ employment specialists to identify partner employers and to provide participating teens with the supports they need to be successful.
“The school district, Vocational Rehabilitation, and Black Hills Works are a collaborative team that have one goal in mind: Helping students with disabilities find a paid work experience in the community by finding their strengths, building their confidence and experience, and providing them the support needed to find permanent employment,” said Krista Inman, Special Education Program Specialist for the Rapid City Area Schools. “This partnership is an integral piece for our students to build a relationship with their community.”
For Meals on Wheels, getting involved with Project Skills helped fill a need in their kitchen. “There are over 950 meals prepared out of this kitchen every weekday, and every day there are special requests from individuals or locations regarding the meals they are preparing,” said Jodi Litz, Development Specialist for Meals on Wheels. “It can be very stressful, but the kitchen staff never show it. This is a great team and Chloe fits right in. We’re thrilled to have this collaborative program!” Cara Goodell, who manages the Meals on Wheels kitchen in Rapid City, agrees.
“This is our first experience with Project Sills and it has been very positive,” she said. “Black Hills Works and the school district has offered so much support. Chloe and Lori, our other student, have been so helpful. We are hoping they can stay on throughout the summer.”
When not working at Meals on Wheels, Chloe values her independence and is taking classes to further develop her life and social skills. Work at Meals on Wheels, however, is the highlight of each day. She knows that the work she does is helping seniors and others who rely on the meals provided Meals on Wheels. She also really enjoys her co-workers.
“They are like a family to me.”
#NDEAM: Thanks to our Proud Employers of People with DisABILITIES!
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM), a time to educate celebrate the many and varied contributions of workers with disabilities, and the employers who hire them.
You can be a Proud Employer of People with DisABILITIES too! Learn how your business will benefit from exceptional employees with disabilities and how we can help by watching our #NDEAM video or visiting our Business Support page.
Fourteen local businesses that have relied on EchoWorks to recycle its old electronics have been presented with Black Hills Works’ “Proudly Recycling our Electronics with EchoWorks!” seal. Entities receiving the digital seal, to be displayed on their websites and Facebook pages, have recycled their e-waste with EchoWorks more than once.
“We really value our partnership with these entities,” said Randy Sheppard, E-Recycling Supervisor for EchoWorks. “Together we are keeping e-waste out of our landfill and employing people with disabilities. It doesn’t get much better than that.”
We are grateful to the following businesses and entities which have relied on EchoWorks for their local e-recycling solution: Black Hills Energy, Douglas School District, Gadget Technology, National American University, Pacific Steel, Pennington County Housing & Redevelopment Commission, Phase Technologies, Rapid City Municipal Recycling Facility, Rushmore Electric, Utilibyte Computer Repair and Services of Rapid City, West River Electric Association, Western Dakota Tech, and Xanterra.
EchoWorks is a member of the Black Hills Works family that employs people with disabilities and provides electronic recycling services to Rapid City and the greater Black Hills region. Since launching in January 2020, we have collected more than 50,000 pounds of electronics from individuals and businesses.
Located on the campus of Western Dakota Tech, its hours of operation are Monday – Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. (closed on federal and school holidays).
EchoWorks accepts electronic devices including but not limited to computers/laptops, keyboards and other components, flat screen monitors, cell phones, tablets, DVR’S, Blueray and DVD/CD players, toner cartridges, and projection televisions. EchoWorks also accepts hard drives, which can be shredded. To ensure privacy, hard drives are logged from the point of collection to the point of destruction, and the customer can be provided with a certificate of destruction.
Black Hills Works joins Rapid City and other communities across the United States in celebrating our exceptional nursing team during Nurses Week, May 6 – 12, 2021.
Black Hills Works supports more than 600 people with disabilities in the Rapid City-area, helping them live, work and play as vital members of our community. Reliable access to healthcare is a critical component of living life fully and our team of seven (7) nurses coordinate this care.
Like nurses everywhere, our nurses bring care, dedication, skill and compassion to their work every day of the year. Unlike most other nurses, our team is dedicated to solely to supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They go above and beyond each and every day to ensure that the people they support are as happy and healthy as possible.
“I have had a couple other nursing jobs and this is by far the most rewarding one,” said Kimberly Tollman, a Registered Nurse and Black Hills Works’ Director of Nursing, when asked what makes working with people with disabilities so meaningful. “I have learned so much from them. This is my passion and what I was put on earth to do.”
This last year was especially challenging, requiring our nurses to respond to an unprecedented pandemic. They took on many additional duties, created new safety procedures and protocols, and offered regular and ongoing communication to staff.
Black Hills Works is grateful to Kimberly Tollman, Amber Abernathy, Tara Delzer, Andrea Kenrick, Missy Konrad, Aspen Pease, and Kayla Wagner for the exceptional skill and leadership they bring to the organization, and we are honored to recognize them every day of the year, but especially during Nurses Week 2021. Because of their skill and compassion, the people we support are living life fully!