equality Pathways to Potential

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2 equality Pathways to Potential Organization Information equality - Pathways to Potential, in existence since April 28, 1998, is a 501c3 non-profit organization that provides day services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. Founded on the basic principal that individuals with intellectual disabilities should be afforded as many diverse opportunities as possible, equality is a program without a facility. As the first Day Program without Walls, in Minnesota, equality provides all activities and services in the community. This innovative approach has since been promoted by officials in Hennepin County and throughout the state. The philosophy keeps administrative expenses exceedingly low and more importantly provides integration for individuals who are sometimes separated from mainstream society. A concept in 1998, equality now serves 160 individuals in over 20 locations. Mission and Values: equality Pathways to Potential challenges individuals with developmental disabilities to maximize their potential and actively participate in life s opportunities by delivering community based, individualized programs. In a cooperative environment equality will provide opportunities based on the following principles: 1) Individualism We will recognize and celebrate the uniqueness of individuals and provide opportunities and experiences based on specific abilities, wants and needs, 2)Innovative We continually challenge individuals with developmental disabilities as well as the community in an effort to provide the broadest range of experiences possible, 3)Rights/Responsibility equality facilitates independent decision making by helping individuals understand the rewards and consequences of their choices, and 4)Quality Excellence will always be the standard in providing programs and services on behalf of the individuals we serve. Community based vocational opportunities, as our first program component, are provided on a daily basis. equality job developers work with local businesses to provide appropriate job opportunities for associates. Under the supervision of a Job Coach, an individual s vocational skills are nurtured and developed. Time "on the job" ranges from two to seven hours daily based on individual needs and abilities. Examples include retail establishments, hotels, health clubs, light industrial facilities, and community centers. In an effort to create opportunities typically denied this population, equality Farm is beginning its fifth year of operation. Recreation, Leisure, Arts, and Education Nonvocational activities represent the second component of program services. Some equality associates choose to work for three or fewer hours per day and spend the remaining hours participating in a variety of classes. A typical week includes a recreational activity such as yoga or basketball, an arts activity such as painting or music therapy, a hands-on lesson in horticulture, and an educational class such as Dating and Relationships, or Computer Basics. All of these classes take place in the community, many in collaboration with partner organizations. While learning about recreational, arts, and other activities, equality associates develop interpersonal and communication skills, build self-confidence, and enjoy a wide range of experiences.

3 Community involvement activities represent the third basic program component. On at least a weekly basis, associates visit local museums, parks, historical and architectural landmarks, and other attractions. Associates are able to be part of the larger society, learn about their community and history, and build relationships. Many equality associates spend some time each month giving back to their community through volunteer service. These activities are conducted under the direction of appropriate staff. Historically, clients (equality - Pathways to Potential uses the term associate) are individuals who have had little control of decisions affecting their lives. Emphasis has been on "fitting in" with mainstream society at the sacrifice of individualism or creativity. Consequently when given the opportunity, they experience difficulty in making those choices. All services are designed to educate and facilitate the informed decision making process. A subtle, yet significant, value of equality is that associates are "of" the organization and not simply recipients of service. equality's organization chart includes associates as an integral part of the structure. As such, they are not viewed as a commodity but rather are full and active participants in the direction, program, and philosophy of the organization itself. An elected representative sits on the board of directors. equality Farm A significant challenge for equality, Pathways to Potential (and other similar programs,) is the ability to provide meaningful and diverse work opportunities to the individuals with developmental disabilities enrolled in the program. These individuals want the same things from their lives as most people without disabilities: to be part of the larger community, to be self-sufficient, to make a difference. But adults with developmental disabilities encounter many stereotypes when seeking employment. Employers often feel reluctant to try a different approach to staffing. The struggling economy and high rate of unemployment result in stiff competition for any and all jobs. When people with disabilities are able to overcome the many barriers and secure employment, they find it difficult to progress beyond basic cleaning jobs. Instead of relying upon other employers for jobs, equality is determined to create meaningful and more diverse work opportunities through our own entrepreneurial efforts. We have planted the seeds of job creation at equality Farm, an eleven-acre farm we rent and operate in Buffalo, MN. There are four main components of equality Farm: equality associates plant, nurture, and harvest vegetables and flowers through both field and high tunnel production. All produce is grown organically. equality associates offer their produce and flowers for sale at 2 local farmers markets per week, from June through October. Some produce is sold directly to local restaurants interested in promoting fresh, locally and organically grown food. Beginning in 2011, equality has offered Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to group homes for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Research shows that group home residents tend to receive poor nutrition. Fresh, healthy produce will be delivered directly to those who need it most. Residents of the homes that purchase CSAs will be invited to the farm to learn about the food they eat and to help with simple farm tasks. The farm is used as a classroom, where equality associates learn about everything from pollination to poetry. Associates who participate in these classes can speak to the nutritional benefits of organically grown produce.

4 Our goals for equality Farm include employment, education of both associates and the larger community, and promotion of healthy eating habits. The objectives for 2015 are: Provide employment to eight adults with developmental disabilities. These eight associates will prepare the farm, plant and maintain all vegetables and flowers, harvest and prepare for market. This group of eight will be supervised by one equality staff member. The money they earn reduces the amount that they receive from social security programs. Provide employment opportunities to 10 adults with developmental disabilities who will work at local farmers markets. These associates will be able to work with customers, weigh produce, make change, and record purchases. Associates working at the market are accompanied by 1-2 equality staff members. Provide employment to 2-3 adults with developmental disabilities who will package and deliver produce to CSA shareholders. These associates will also create newsletters for shareholders and market customers. They will be supervised by one staff member. Provide education and enrichment activities to at least 40 adults with developmental disabilities who will participate in weekly classes and activities at the farm. Educate the larger community about what people with disabilities can achieve. Associates will demonstrate their skills through active participation in the farmers markets. Newsletters offered to customers and posted to the equality website will illustrate their abilities as well. Provide healthy produce and menu options to group home residents with developmental disabilities. Adults with developmental disabilities often live in group settings in the community, typically in groups of four. The number of adults with disabilities impacted will depend upon the number of shares sold and the number of residents in each applicable home. We ll target 30 group home shares for 2015, so would estimate 120 residents. Provide organically grown produce to the public at local farmers markets, at a price lower than similar produce would cost at a typical grocery store. equality Farm will benefit both the Developmental Disabilities community and the larger community of Hennepin County, Minnesota. The individuals who are employed there will have meaningful work, and will reap the emotional and financial benefits of employment. When these individuals earn money, the amount of financial assistance they receive from the government is reduced. A recent report issued by Hennepin County, Minnesota, indicated that individuals with developmental disabilities are more likely than the general population to be physically inactive and to struggle with obesity. Group home staff members do not necessarily have the training or resources to provide nutritious meals. Many individuals take medications that contribute to weight gain, so the results of poor diet and lack of exercise are compounded. Existing medical conditions worsen and the need for costly medical care increases. By delivering fresh, organically-grown vegetables to the doors of group homes, complete with recipes and menu planning information, equality associates will promote good health in the entire developmental disabilities community. Equality Farm is in its early stages. Over the next few years, we plan to grow the number of CSA shares, as well as the market earnings and direct sales, to the point where the farm is a selfsustaining business. Only at that point will we have succeeded in creating continuing, meaningful, viable, and unique job opportunities for equality associates.

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