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Autistic Students Deliver Maplewood Chamber's Directory Citywide

“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,” said Betty Berger, school director of Maplewood's Giant Steps school.

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.”

Berger said a young man from Giant Steps volunteers at Schlafly Bottleworks every day for two hours, and others at the Fantasy Shop comic book store, and Kakao Chocolate.

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.”

See related in Patch:

  • Welcoming Giant Steps of St. Louis to Maplewood
  • Maplewood Business: Giant Steps of St. Louis
  • Home Depot Volunteers Help Out at Giant Steps School in Maplewood
  • Rams Mascot Celebrates New Maplewood Playground
Mary Konroy February 05, 2013 at 04:01 PM
What a wonderful collaborative effort!
Jeannine Beck February 05, 2013 at 04:11 PM
My thanks to Doug and Patch.com for running this article. I would strongly encourage our local businesses to explore the possibility of hiring a student from Giant Steps. Betty and her staff will listen to your needs and determine if there is a student that would be a good match for your company. Students are typically accompanied by a job coach onsite and if needed, will assist in communicating tasks to students. As the article mentioned, for over a year the Chamber/MCBF office has had the pleasure of having Sam help in our office. He and his job coach, Pat, are a pleasure to work with and they offer us much needed help. There is no doubt that we get more out of the experience then they do.
Karen Wood February 05, 2013 at 07:58 PM
Thanks Doug for the heartwarming story. Kudos to Jeannine and Betty Berger for joining their efforts to create such a wonderful opportunity for the kids.
Jim Kirchner February 06, 2013 at 01:17 AM
I know our daughter loves Giant Steps. She tells us all the time that August is learning so many new things. Things that will help him all during his life. Being a part of the community is very important. Thanks to everyone who helps these kids.
Betty Berger February 09, 2013 at 03:20 PM
Thanks Doug for communicating so well about the efforts of our students and staff. Big thanks to Jeannine and the Chamber for the opportunity for our kids to shine!!

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