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Store’s new program to train disabled workers

STERLING – Local people with developmental disabilities will be working at the Sterling Goodwill store, gaining valuable job training and experience, officials say.

Goodwill’s Let’s Go To Work! program is coming to town, likely in mid-2013, said Courtney Geiger, director of mission services for Goodwill of Northern Illinois.

The program teaches behavioral, customer service and other workplace skills, such as how to stay safe on the job. Participants will learn what employers will expect of them, and what they should expect from their employers, Geiger said.

It’s a perfect fit with the international nonprofit’s mission: to provide training, employment and supportive services for people with disabilities or disadvantages who seek greater independence.

Participants will be trained so they can stay either in the program or move on to another job, Geiger said.

The thrift store at 2216 E. Fourth St. will partner with a local nonprofit that works with people with developmental disabilities to find program participants, about 10 at a time, Geiger said. They will work about 10 to 15 hours a week for at least minimum wage and will be eligible for merit increases throughout the program.

Attendance, performance and production goals will be set.

Participants will sort clothes and small household and bag toys, and also will have opportunities to interact with customers, said Jackie Wooden, manager of Sterling Goodwill.

“It’ll be great for interaction,” Wooden said. “It’ll be great for people to have something that they can say, ‘This is my job.’ I think anybody can do whatever they want to do. That just takes determination.”

Let’s Go To Work! was launched Sept. 24 in Freeport, where Rick Janicke is store manager.

“The program’s worked out really great,” Janicke said. “It’s been a win for everybody, for us here at the store, employees, customers ... great for the 10 people we hired.”

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