UCP Seguin Enterprises: Creating Opportunity and A Space in the Community

Special thanks to Julie Lerch, Senior Director of Seguin Enterprises, for her assistance in contributing to this blog!

October is National Disability Employment Awareness MonthOur 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.

Story Behind Viral Photo Better Than You Think

 

Dan Garringer_Viral Image

McDonald’s employee Kenny helps Dan Garringer with Meal

Chicago, IL (September 25, 2015) – The full story of the man pictured in a photo that went “viral” this week is even more touching than you might imagine. The snapshot posted to Facebook by a customer showed McDonald’s employee Kenny helping Dan Garringer cut and eat his food. Many news outlets reported that Dan ordered his food then requested some help from Kenny, who promptly closed his till at the busy Union Station restaurant and helped Dan eat his meal. More than 1 million people have liked and shared the photo on social media, with many commenting about Kenny’s compassion and kindness. Kenny was given special recognition by the owner/operator of his McDonald’s franchise.

What many of those commenters don’t realize is that this photo speaks volumes to those who know the story of Dan’s life. Dan has cerebral palsy and has strived his entire life to live as independently as possible as a participating and valued member of his community.

“People with disabilities are just like everyone else.  We love life and being part of our community.  We go to restaurants, stores, the movies and coffee shops and take Metra and public transportation to be able to experience life as everyone else does,” Dan said. “I know that Kenny is getting all of the credit, but, in my mind, he is representing all of the employees at the Union Station McDonald’s. They are wonderful, caring people who make me feel that I am just like everyone else, and they do not treat me like I am a person with a disability…they treat me like I am just Dan, someone that loves McDonald’s fries.”

In 1993, Dan and his wife Clarina – who passed away last year – moved in a group home where UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago can provide the support and services he needs. UCP Seguin is an affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy, a nonprofit organization for people with disabilities.

Dan spent his childhood with his family but moved into a nursing home as an adult, where he met and married his wife. For years he was told he was “too handicapped” to work. But after he connected with UCP Seguin, he worked with a case worker to pursue a writing career. For more than a decade, he wrote a column for his local newspaper Suburban Life called “The View from Here.” Using just a thumb and forefinger on one hand, Dan wrote about human potential and advocated for people with disabilities to be fully included in life – concepts neatly captured in this one image.

“Dan often wrote about experiences very much like this…and many times the opposite of this, as he was faced with discrimination, insults, and worse,” said Jim Haptonstahl, Executive Vice President of UCP Seguin “He has been overwhelmed by the reaction to this story. But he’s good with it, if it promotes greater acceptance and inclusion of people with disabilities in society.”

United Cerebral Palsy and its affiliates such as UCP Seguin advocate for that greater acceptance and inclusion, providing the services needed to ensure that people like Dan have the care, education, employment, housing and other opportunities they need.

“Every one of us has certain challenges,” said Jim. “Dan’s challenges mean he sometimes needs a little help from his fellow community members. Kenny gets that. And, that’s cool.”

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About UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago

Seguin of Greater Chicago is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit human services agency dedicated to enriching the lives of people with disabilities. Providing programs and services from birth to old age, UCP Seguin helps children and adults with disabilities achieve their potential, advance their independence and act as full members of the community. Its programs include innovative training and education, family support, employment and life-skills training, residential services, and foster care. For more information, visit www.ucpseguin.org.

 

UCP Seguin Volunteers Show Support for Vets at The Moving Wall

UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago paid a visit to The Moving Wall as it passed through Berwyn, Illinois August 7 through 11. The Wall, a smaller replica of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington D.C., has been touring the United States for 30 years. Berwyn Mayor Robert J. Lovero and the Berwyn Development Corporation sponsored the wall’s visit to the Chicago areas and and UCP Seguin’s “Community Connections” program jumped in to provide some of the many volunteers needed to ensure a meaningful experience for local veterans and others. 

A group of people, some older, some younger, posing for a picture in the middle of a field.

Seguin volunteers, including people with disabilities and staff members, helped loved ones locate the names of their friends and family members on the exhibit. Afterwards they assisted with routine maintenance of the exhibit.

“We are especially proud of the way people with disabilities and staff generously contributed to this poignant memorial,” stated John Voit, UCP Seguin President and CEO. “The Moving Wall brought together, side by side, people with and without disabilities to commemorate the brave souls we have lost to war. Not only do the people we serve benefit from this experience, but so does the whole community.”

The “Community Connections” program helps people with disabilities give back to their community. UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago is an affiliate of United Cerebral Palsy serving 1000 children and adults with disabilities throughout the Greater Chicago area.