Story by Sara Paul
Hard work can often yield obvious things, such as a paycheck or a pension. However, for the devoted individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, shopping, packing, and delivering 16 bags of groceries to the Warwick Ecumenical Food Pantry and 15 backpacks to Catholic Charities is a meaningful job that can be the key to acquiring something much more important: dignity.
Dignity Works Here, Inc., a new non-profit organization based in Warwick, was born this spring.
“Dignity Works Here, Inc. partners with companies and organizations to provide vocational opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” according to the group’s website.
Partnering with St. Stephen’s RC Church in Warwick, Dignity Works Here, Inc. and their volunteers collected donations from parishioners and also shopped for supplies to fill the grocery and school backpacks.
The organization’s philosophy is simple, yet filled with hope and meaning.
“You help somebody twice. First, we are helping the needy, but it also provides an opportunity for our members to learn life skills,” said Lisa Currao, one of the members of Dignity Works Here, Inc.
“We are grateful to the parishioners who participated in the activities, as well as to the pastor, Father Jack Arlotta, who took a leap of faith with us,” said Currao.
The Sugar Loaf mom tells the story of her own 17-year-old son, Brendan, who has moderate autism. Last year he volunteered as a personal shopper through the Operation Backpack program at St. Stephens, something he enjoyed and excelled in.
This started her serious conversations with other parents who wondered, “What do we do when the school bus stops coming.”
“There are so many kids exiting school and there are not enough spaces for them in day habilitation and vocational support programs,” added Currao.
“The parents who are a part of Dignity Works Here, Inc. feel that we have worked hard to get our children to where they are and do not want them to come home and sit on the couch when the school bus stops coming. Our children need opportunities to be busy and become an integral part of the community,” she noted.
The project at St. Stephen’s is just the beginning for the fearless young team. The group is seeking volunteer opportunities in such venues as farmers’ markets, craft fairs, and of course, possible fundraising ideas to continue to move the efforts forward.
“We’d eventually like to identify some businesses who would want to work with us, not just those accepting volunteers, but also those willing to help practice job skills, interviewing, socialization, and also building awareness,” said Currao, adding that Beth Golden, another member of Dignity Works, has imagined that something simple and purposeful like a Dignity Works Here sticker in a store window would be a way to brand the group and make it a lasting, thriving organization.
“We want these individuals to become the absolute best that they can be. They come to work on time, they’re dependable, they don’t mind working holidays, and they’re not texting,” she firmly and proudly reports.
For more information about Dignity Works Here, Inc., visit www.dignityworkshere.org.