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In the U.S. today, people with disabilities have an unemployment rate of approximatley 80%, an astounding contrast to the general population national average of 9%. But at Misericordia, every adult is productive through participation in meaningful employment or programs.
For the most independent residents, employment in the community at-large is the ultimate goal. The off-campus employment program not only helps residents obtain jobs in the community, it also provides support to both the residents and their employers to help build long-lasting and valued relationships. These services include staff making regular visits to the job sites to modify schedules and routines, training residents in transportation to/from the job, and conducting frequent seminars on job-related topics like workplace communication and grooming.
Click here to see companies who employ our residents.
The majority of adults at Misericordia are involved in on-campus work opportunity programs. The people who live at Misericordia have disabilities ranging from mild to severe and profound so we work to provide a broad spectrum of opportunities that are developed and refined to meet their unique needs.
Misericordia’s creative souls find a place to shine in the art programs. The HeART Studios are comprised of six different art studios -- each focused on a different skill, medium or challenge. These programs provide exceptional opportunities for participants to express their individuality. Adults build their knowledge of art history and technique and, of course, are able to create their own masterpieces. Paintings, ceramics, glassware, painted woodwork and photographs are created through the 20-year-old program, which through the years has resulted in increasingly sophisticated pieces. One studio program that creates larger projects gives adults with physical disabilities and those with more profound disabilities the opportunity for artistic expression.
It should come as no surprise that Misericordia’s 3,000 square-foot bakery is a popular place to work on campus. Each day, residents work with professional bakers and volunteers to make, package and send cookies, Irish soda bread, brownies and fudge – to name just a few favorites. Each year since its founding in 1991, Hearts & Flour Bakery has increased its customer base for outside orders of baked goods through on-line sales of gift boxes, and on campus, the treats continue to be a big hit at meals and parties.
The restaurant, which is open to the public for lunch Tuesday-Friday and for Sunday breakfast and/or brunch, boasts of having the best service in the city. Residents greet and serve customers as waiters, bus staff, and cooks. Residents employed by the restaurant learn valuable customer service skills and are frequently asked to work at Misericordia’s special events.
Jade plants, ferns, hydrangeas and vegetables are just a few of the plants cared for by Misericordia’s gardeners. This is an ideal work opportunity for adults with physical challenges, thanks to such innovative designs as raised flowerbeds outside and wide aisles and rolling tables inside the greenhouse. External customers purchase the majority of plants that are grown and nurtured; vegetables grown are used for on-campus meals. In addition, the horticultural team is responsible for maintaining the plants in campus buildings as well as around the grounds.
The laundry center employs 50 adults with mild to moderate developmental disabilities. Sorting and folding laundry appeals to many adults who prefer a routine each day, but the lively atmosphere – oldies music pumping through the center and a camaraderie that comes from working in pairs – makes it fun for all.
Misericordia manages projects with several companies in the office skills program, including packaging and shipping for Schaefer’s Wine of the Month Club, packaging suitcases for ComEd/Exelon, and assembling employee handbooks for S&C Electric Co. Residents also use a variety of skills to fulfill the needs of on-campus departments, including copying, data entry, collating, assembling and packaging.
This program focuses on ensuring that Misericordia operates in a way that benefits our community and environment. Each week, members of the recycling team visit employees throughout campus to pick up discarded paper, cans and plastic, which are then brought to the recycling center. There, cans are crushed and paper is shredded; the latter is used for papier-mâché projects in the art studio program. Although the campus-wide recycling program is still quite new, 90% of the residents and employees are participating, and waste already has been reduced by at least 40%.
For adults with severe and profound developmental disabilities (mental capability of 2-36 months of age), Misericordia has developed self-help programs to support the highest quality of life possible. Basic functions that most of society takes for granted, such as hand washing and making eye contact, are key goals for these participants.
As schools become more sophisticated in helping children with special needs, earning a high school diploma is an attainable goal for many of Misericordia’s residents. Illinois citizens with developmental disabilities are able to attend high school until the age of 22, and the extra time provides an excellent opportunity to learn more and prepare for life as an adult. Misericordia collaborates with school districts within a 20-mile radius for placement of students, ensuring an equal balance of students with and without disabilities at each school. When a young adult moves to Misericordia and would like to continue education at a local high school, Misericordia strives to accommodate that wish.
Some of the McAuley Resident’s, all of whom have significant medical issues in addition to mental disabilities, attend the on-campus school because of the risk of infection on buses or in larger classrooms. Curriculum is geared toward their individual needs and educational objectives. The McAuley School is certified/approved by the Illinois Board of Education.