LifeWorks aids clients, economy

For nearly a half century, LifeWorks Community Services, 1303 A St., has played a key role in Fort Dodge and Webster County. It offers residential, vocational and community support services to individuals with mental, physical or developmental disabilities.

The nonprofit organization improves the quality of life for the individuals it serves.

“In years past, people with disabilities really had to rely on their families,” Teresa Naughton, LifeWorks executive director, said. “Families are different than they used to be and support systems are different. … The niche that LifeWorks really fills is to provide those supports and services to people so they can live in the community.”

The organization offers an array of residential services. Some of its clients live in nine homes LifeWorks operates. Others receive carefully customized support services that make it possible for them to live successfully in their own homes.

The vocational services LifeWorks provides benefit people with disabilities. They also contribute positively to the local economy. These programs help individuals develop work skills and behaviors that make it possible for them to be employed to perform various tasks either at LifeWorks or in the community.

“Our goal is to teach people work skills,” Naughton said. “Sometimes for some, they are here for a short time and then they move on to their next opportunity outside of us. For some people, it takes a long while. For other people, maybe this is where they retire from.”

She said at any given time there are 35 to 40 participants in vocational workshop program.

The work projects take place on-site in the LifeWorks workshop. They are sometimes undertaken to fulfill the needs of local employers. Some are ongoing. Others are short-term.

“There are several local companies that provide us with consistent work,” said Kurt Duffield, LifeWorks vocational director. “Also we get phone calls from the same or different companies and they say, ‘Hey, we have this project. We are interested in having you do this project for us.’ We have a pretty flexible work force.”

Duffield said employers who have projects LifeWorks clients might undertake are urged to get in touch with the organization.

Pet leashes

One long-term manufacturing project that has been ongoing at LifeWorks for more than a quarter century is the production of pet leashes. Each year individuals participating in the LifeWorks vocational program produce 30,000 to 35,000 leashes, according to Naughton. These leashes are marketed in 42 states to about 400 customers. Purchasers include small animal vet clinics, pet boarding facilities and animal control entities. Local customers have included East Lawn Animal Hospital, Family Pet Medical Center and Town and Country Vet Center.

LifeWorks additionally has a Work Crew initiative that typically involves seven to 10 people.

“Work Crew is where we take four or five individuals into business,” Duffield said. “As opposed to bringing the work here, we go to the job site there. Our Work Crews are janitorial.”

The vocational endeavors generate revenue for LifeWorks and income for LifeWorks clients who perform the work.

“Income that comes from production goes right back into funding services,” Naughton said.

The programs, however, have a more important purpose – helping Lifeworks clients.

“The whole purpose is to try to train them so they get work skills and work behaviors so they can reach their fullest potential,” Duffield said.

Naughton strongly endorsed that sentiment.

“What we hope to do is encourage growth,” she said. “Growth in their skills. Hopefully, we can help them grow their skills.”

About LifeWorks Community Services

The official corporate name for the organization is the North Central Sheltered Workshop, but it does business as LifeWorks Community Services. The building at 1303 A St., where the vocational services are located, was a bowling alley many years ago. LifeWorks has been using that 31,000-square-foot structure since the 1970s. The residential program services are provided at the nine homes LifeWorks operates. Support services are also provided in client homes.

The mission of LifeWorks is to provide opportunities for growth and achievement for persons with disabilities who face barriers to independence and integration in employment and daily living.

According to LifeWorks FY 2013 Annual Report, the total consumers served annually by the organization’s assorted programs since 2008 has averaged just under 200. LifeWorks typically has about 70 employees, according to Naughton. She said much of the organization’s funding comes from the Medicaid program.

LifeWorks Community services has the following accreditations:

The Iowa Department of Human Services as a provider of Home and Community Based Services.

The Iowa Department of Human Services as a provider of Supported Community Living Services.

Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities as a provider of Community and Employment Services.

LifeWorks is a nonprofit organization governed by a 10-person, volunteer board of directors. The current board president is Michael Scacci.

An effort to generate endowment support for LifeWorks is underway. The LifeWorks Charitable Foundation was established to provide financial support to LifeWorks and its mission. Gifts given to the Foundation are intended to be endowed, with a minimal amount spent for necessary operating expenses. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization. It foundation has a seven-person board of directors, currently chaired by Phil Reed.