On Tuesday, April 8 Kent-Sussex Industries, Inc. (KSI) celebrated 52 years of providing employment to individuals with disabilities with their annual open house event. Members of the Milford community and surrounding area had the opportunity to tour the facility located on Rehoboth Boulevard. With over 300 visitors in attendance on Tuesday, KSI proudly showed off their employees as they continued to work through another productive day.
KSI is a not for profit vocational rehabilitation organization which serves the residents of Kent and Sussex Counties with a focus on creating employment opportunities to those with disabilities. This organization has spent the past 52 years serving the needs of disabled individuals but also those of the business community. For each individual, KSI provides encouragement and confidence through vocational rehabilitation, job development, and training. For the business community KSI has provided contract labor services since 1977. They currently have several work crews under contract, working with familiar businesses such as Coastal Brewery, Delaware Distilling, Dentsply Caulk, Fastnel, Milford Lions Club, Mohawk Electric and Perdue.
Local companies, such as Fastenal in Milford, have worked alongside KSI since the early 2000’s. A supplier of fasteners, hardware, tools and safety equipment, Fastenal has depended on these workers to complete over 100 different configurations of assembled pieces including nuts and bolts. In 2012 alone KSI workers made 2,185,832 pieces for the local company, creating 150,00 to 300,000 pieces per month.
The Milford Lions Club also receives help from KSI as workers assemble the finished product of the annual Lions Club phone book that Milford residents recently received on their doorstep. Workers place the donation sticker on the front of the book, insert the donation letter inside the book and place the book inside a protective plastic sleeve. The total order this year was 16,000 phone books, which last year provided over 464 hours of paid work.
Each participant at KSI is paired with a program manager that helps them seek short and long-term goals. Each individuals is different and those goals are as well. One participant may seek to be comfortable in a crowd setting while another’s goal is to be self-sufficient working as a full employee of another company.
“At the end of the day, it is about quality of life, dignity and respect. That is what everyone deserves,” commented Director of Community Relations Alicia Hollis. “We have staff that is trained to understand each individual’s strengths and abilities and help each individual reach their personal objectives.”
With approximately 300 individuals being employed by, or with the help of, KSI there is a myriad of employment opportunities based on the needs of each business and the ability of each person. KSI offers three employment programs. The first is on-site employment that is heavily supervised to ensure the education and safety of each individual. Activities provide for group and individual instruction in areas such as direction following, attention to task, sequencing, social interaction, and job readiness skills. The second program, community-based work service programs, offers a chance for employees to work in small groups in the community under KSI supervision. The third program, which offers the most independence, is the supported employment program where individuals become employees of the location where they work. KSI will supervise the progress of each employee to help get them acclimated with the job and also ensure longevity as time passes.
This year KSI has placed a focus on embracing abilities and creating more visibility in the community for participants and services that KSI provides. Participants take trips into the community to volunteer at local organizations such as the Food Bank of Delaware and Gods Way where they not only work on vocational skills but assist their own communities.
“Governor Markell has taken the initiative as Chair of the National Governors Association to make employing people with disabilities a priority and we take that very seriously,” stated Craig Crouch, CEO at Kent Sussex Industries.“We have had a big move to move more services out into the community. It is a higher expectation and the natural progression of the services, it is time.”