A collaboration between two different Maplewood organizations has resulted in good things for both, as well as a lot of great learning.
Jeannine Beck, director of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce, needed the 2013 chamber directory delivered to every home and business in Maplewood, so she asked Giant Steps School Director Betty Berger if her students could help out.
Giant Steps is a school for children on the autism spectrum. It’s in the building that was once the school for Concordia Lutheran Church, on Sarah Street.
“The exciting thing for us is when Jeannine asked me if we could do this job, I knew that all the kids could do it,” Berger said.
Beck said an autistic young man had been working in her office for a year and a half. She had learned about autism through that experience, so when Giant Steps opened, she was able to use that experience to recommend to Maplewood businesses to also place the students.
She also knew they could deliver the directories. The chamber is making a donation to the school in exchange for the service.
“As we teach these kids jobs, those things turn into life skills, and then that turns into work,” Berger said. “A lot of people in the community think that these kids are not employable, but they really are, and they’re very dedicated to their jobs.”
So far the 32 students, ages five to 19, have delivered nine of the 11 boxes of directories. They go into the community with their PE teacher, and each student has his or her own individual assistant. Berger said people have been very friendly.
“Our kids feel really good about themselves. I think all people feel good when they’re doing service to the community,” she said. “Our kids really get it.”
She said autism is a very complicated disability.
“These are children that a lot of people have given up on, and think that they can’t do anything, and we know they can,” Berger said. “A lot of them are learning and doing all kinds of great things.”
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