One of the most beautiful things in life is new perspective, when we look at something or someone with new appreciation and new understanding. New Perspectives, Inc. in Sioux City is built on looking at differently abled individuals with appreciation and understanding. Their mission – “Enhancing the lives of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities through innovative, individualized programs and services, and helping them to be as self-sufficient as possible.”
The organization traces its roots back to 1922, when a group of Methodist women created the Harriet Ballou New Hope Center (HNBHC) that provided day-care services to children with disabilities, the first of its kind in Siouxland. In the 1960’s, the focused changed from children to adults and HBNHC became Work Activity Company (WACO). For over three decades, WACO provided sheltered work services that created opportunities for adults to earn a paycheck, no matter the barriers.
In June of 2000, the name was changed from WACO to New Perspectives, Inc, which aligned more with our mission. Executive Director Jolie Corder explained, “As we began to look at the future of rehabilitation and what our organization could offer, it became apparent changes were needed to provide the type of community services people desired. We felt the name, New Perspectives, more accurately depicted our philosophy as we entered into the 21st century. Our mission is to change peoples’ perspectives to focus on the ability of a person, not their disability.”
New Perspectives, often referred to as NPI, provides two major services to its members, Community Employment Program and the Life Enrichment Center.
The Community Employment Program assists members in finding employment that utilizes their skills and abilities and provides value to employers. By utilizing job coaches who first learn about the individual to be served, the program can approach employers with ideas for partnership. The job coaches meet with the member to discuss their goals, interests, and abilities. Then they begin formulating a plan to prepare for employment. The coaches work with local businesses to identify needs they have that align with the member goals. Once a position is identified, the job coaches accompany the member to the jobsite and provide one-on-one job coaching until they have learned the job and are comfortable with it. Regular check-ins with the member and the employer provide opportunity for the job coaches to provide further coaching if needed. “Our members take great pride in their jobs.” Corder said. “They know they are doing something that is valued and appreciated and earn a paycheck too!”
The community-based employment has been a shift from previous focus on site-based employment, where NPI would contract services to be done at their 310 S. Martha Street facility. “Like anything, the change took a little time for us all to adapt to, but it is great knowing that more of the community gets to understand and appreciate the abilities of our members since they are out in the community.” Corder added. “These are beautiful people who bring so much joy to my life, it would be selfish of us to keep that to ourselves. Now co-workers, customers and bosses out in the community get to develop new perspective about individuals with intellectual disabilities.”
You might wonder how COVID has impacted Community Employment. “Some of our members were furloughed right away when their businesses either closed or reduced operations. Some have not been able to continue because of quarantine expectations at their residences, but others have continued their jobs. I know all are anxious to return as soon as they can.” Corder said.
The second major activity of NPI is the Life Enrichment Center (LEC). The LEC promotes the enrichment of daily life skills and offers opportunities to socialize beyond the home environment. While the LEC has a schedule each day, the schedule is built with the focus on individual choice. “We usually have a number of activities people can choose from.” Corder said. “We honor the adulthood and encourage them to choose what is interesting.” That choice option is balanced with some dedicated time to discuss things such as current events, social skills, and personal safety. “As we prepare to reopen after our mandated pandemic closure, we will be spending a lot of time talking about hygiene, safety, and wellness.” Corder notes. “This was happening before we closed, and I’m sure many have continued those conversations at home. It will be a challenge when we begin. We have all missed each other so much in the 2-1/2 months we have been closed. It will be really difficult to avoid hugs.”
The staff of the LEC have stayed in contact with members while they have been closed – staging a mask-wearing photo shoot for a postcard, making phone calls, and driving by homes. “The employees work here because they love the members. They miss them and are concerned for their wellness too.” Corder notes.
In addition to on-site activities, NPI has a strong tradition of meaningful engagement in the community as a component of their Life Enrichment services. Members often have choices of educational, leisure or recreational activities both in Sioux City and the surrounding area. “Our buses go almost every day.” Corder said. “We want to provide opportunities to see things and do things as a group. The interaction is incredible.”
One of the initiatives NPI had been working on prior to the pandemic was developing a robust volunteer program. “We could do so much more, both internally and with excursions if we had more people to assist.” Corder said. “We’ve identified some one-time volunteer needs as well as some longer term, or regular interval needs as well. Once we establish our new normal, we’ll reboot that effort.” Some of the ways volunteers could be helpful at NPI include: chaperoning excursions, teaching or assisting with classes such as crafting, cooking or life skills, helping with social media, marketing and fundraising, and chatting with members during lunch.
“NPI is a happy place to be.” Corder said matter-of-factly. “There is nowhere else I can think of that you are greeted unconditionally with an authentic smile every time you walk into member serving areas. It fills your soul with beauty.”
By Cyndi Hanson