Laura is keeping busy. She has been organizing books and dusting for the past hour at Ideas Book Store in Kimberton. “It’s good here,” says Laura. “I’d like to work here longer.”
Peter, on the other hand, enjoys sweeping and dusting. When asked, he said he even helps dust at home. Peter has one year left in the Transition Program, and he will continue to participate in the Outreach Program as well as help Larry out at Kimberton Hills once a week.
Peter and Laura have been volunteering at Ideas since the beginning of the school year as part of the Outreach Program and Beaver Farm. The program, which started in 2016, is part of an initiative to help the Transition Program students gain work experience, learn social skills, and become integrated into the community.
Christopher Deichmann, the director of the program, has been on the lookout for new opportunities for the students. Thus far they have volunteered at the book store and French Creek Park in addition to making trips into the community to buy supplies for back at the Farm. They have also just begun to help out at Community Arts Phoenixville.
At French Creek Park, Faisal and Cyrus can be found helping to rake clear the paths or clear out fire pits. The work at the park is a nice compliment to the work they are learning to do at the farm, and further reinforces these skills.
“The outreach trips also help the students get to know people in the community,” says Christopher. And, in turn, members of the community get to know them. “Eventually, we are hoping some of our students will be able to find competitive part time jobs in the community.”
One of the students, Victoria, learned a great deal while working at Ideas. “By the end of her time there, she was greeting, helping customers find books, and then ringing them up, “ said Christopher.
Participants rotate between the opportunities every two months, so that eventually all the students at the farm will have a chance to try out something new.
At Ideas, the impact on life skills has been tangible. Laura has been working on the register, and even improving her math skills. It has even helped them with their adventures in the community. “We go shopping, and to stores like Target and Giant, “ said Laura. “Christopher has the list so we know what to get.”
Shannon Chamberlin, the owner of Ideas, started welcoming Beaver Farm volunteers at her store about six months ago. “It’s been great,” she told us. The volunteers help with everything from sweeping to bookkeeping.
Shannon approached Guy Alma about developing a possible connection with the farm last winter, and the volunteer program developed out of that. When asked if she would encourage other business owners to invite Beaver Farm volunteers to their establishments, her response was “Have them! It’s a great experience and I highly recommend it. It has added a lot of life to the book store.”