Volunteers with Developmental Disabilities Gain Job Skills at Food Shelf

Posted Saturday, July 25, 2015

On many a Friday morning, several consumers of Northeast Contemporary Services, Inc. (NCSI), which serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, can be found volunteering at Keystone’s Roseville Food Shelf, located at 2833 N. Hamline Ave.

A NCSI consumer who recently completed high school spent two hours one Friday morning unpacking boxes of canned goods and other food items and helped other volunteers stock the shelves for the day ahead.

It was his first day at the food shelf and his first experience in a work setting, an opportunity made possible through a partnership of Keystone and NCSI that started three years ago.

In the program, volunteers from NCSI provide a valuable service to Keystone, but they benefit as well. At the food shelf, they develop jobs skills and gain work experience that in some cases have led to paying jobs in the community.

“Through our partnership with Keystone, the Roseville Food Shelf has become a wonderful job training site for those we serve,” said Lyla Bowen, a job coach worker at NCSI, a nonprofit based in Roseville, pictured below with Amy Russ of Keystone.

“Volunteering at the food shelf gives them the chance to learn about what is expected in a workplace, develop good work habits, and gain some on-the-job experience that employers look for,” said Bowen. “It’s getting them ready for the next step in their lives.”

So far, three NCSI consumers who have volunteered with Keystone have moved on to paid employment thanks to their food shelf experience, said Bowen. For example, a former volunteer now works at a local restaurant applying the work skills she learned at Keystone.

At the food shelf, Bowen supervises NCSI consumers until they are ready to work more independently with other volunteers under the supervision of Keystone food shelf site manager Amy Russ.

“Our food shelves depend on volunteers and we really appreciate this collaboration because it brings us great new people,” said Russ. “Their folks are such hard workers and fit in well. We are delighted to have NCSI as part of our team.”

According to Bowen, the partnership with Keystone is definitely a win-win proposition. “Our folks are serving the community, the community is serving them, and everybody benefits.”