Special thanks to Julie Lerch, Senior Director of Seguin Enterprises, for her assistance in contributing to this blog!
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Our affiliate in the Chicago area, UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago, has worked to help provide job training for people with disabilities through two of it’s unique enterprises, Seguin Garden and Gifts and Seguin Auto Center.
UCP’s national office recently caught up with Julie Lerch, Senior Director of Seguin Enterprises, to learn more about their history and the impact of employment for people with disabilities.
The welcome sign for Seguin Auto Center.
Seguin Auto Center
Seguin Auto Center began as a small crew washing the vehicles in parking lot in April 2004 and grew into a full detailing and car wash service. Built solely through donations and the help of the community, Seguin Auto Center provides a range of services, which includes full vehicle detailing and hand car washes. In addition to the services provided at the Auto Center, they also own a used car lot. Though the amount of cars for sale to the community varies, each of the vehicles available for purchase were secured through donations. Seguin Auto Center also works with various nonprofits in the Chicago metro area, helping to administer their vehicle donation programs. This can include processing donations, cleaning up those that are suitable for selling on the Seguin Auto Center used car lot, and recycling the cars that are not able to be sold. Once the vehicle is sold or recycled, Seguin Auto Center sends a check to the non-profit partner for the proceeds of the donation. According to Julie, this is a win-win for both the nonprofit partner and Seguin Auto Center.
Employees at Seguin Autocenter washing a car.
The lot sells more than just cars. Starting in April and running through Thanksgiving, the Seguin Auto Center hosts a market every Saturday & Sunday. Vendors rent a space for $13 to $18, and sell a wide range of items, from housewares to clothing, pretty much whatever they like. It also creates a wonderful opportunity to engage the community with UCP Seguin and for the vendors to earn income and promote the items that they have for sale.
Seguin Garden and Gifts
A display for “UCPSeguinMade” ceramics.
In addition to Seguin Auto Center, UCP Seguin also runs Seguin Garden & Gifts. Seguin Garden and Gifts came about from a successful Horticulture therapy program and a growing lawn and landscaping crew that maintained the lawns at the UCP Seguin CILA homes, in addition to a small, off-site craft store.
Seguin Garden and Gifts features a 4,000 square foot greenhouse and 2,000 square feet of retail space. Construction on the space began in 2007. The greenhouse offers a variety of edibles, annuals, perennials and houseplants, depending on the season. “UCPSeguinGrown,” a line of organically grown vegetables and herbs are available in the Spring, all grown by participants. The retail side features gardening merchandise, home decor, holiday items, and features a section of “UCPSeguinMade” ceramics, jewelry, cards, and plants.
Both Seguin Garden and Gifts and Seguin Auto Center offer competitive employment for people with disabilities with varying needs and supports. They help to provide employment training and life skills, and currently have 87 employees who have worked over a total of 18,000 hours.
Planting in the garden.
Find out more about UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago’s Enterprises by going here.
For more information on employment and people with disabilities, check out our Facts About Employment Blog.