Nonprofit #5, Greater Twin Cities United Way partners with agencies in Minnesota to provide employment services. Learn how Bryon, a victim of a violent assault was able to pick himself up with the help of one of United Way’s partner agencies.
In 2005, Byron was the victim of a violent assault in South Minneapolis. “A bystander said she heard the sound of my head crack against the sidewalk,” Byron says. “I was in a coma for nearly 60 days. I was in rehab for another 3 or 4 months. I had to learn how to walk again, how to talk.” Byron has lived in Minnesota for 47 years. He graduated from high school in Minneapolis, served in the Army Reserve and later worked in maintenance for several large companies in the metro area. “Before my accident, I knew how to sheetrock, do electricity, build houses,” he said. “The accident took all of that away.”
Byron received services at the TBI Metro Services, a division of Opportunity Partners, a United Way partner agency located in the Twin Cities. United Way supports the employment services-brain injury program as part of our goal to improve the financial stability of people in need. We also invest in the semi-independent living services and in-home help program as part of our health goal to help people remain independent. The employment program helps prepare people to rejoin the workforce and work independently, something Byron was eager to do. “I used to accept being disabled,” he said. “I would say, ‘I’m disabled. I can’t do it.’ Joining the program was an opportunity to come out of the ‘poor me’ mode.”
Clients like Byron receive training in work skills and ongoing in-home and community support to learn independent living skills so they can lead healthy lives. After training, clients can move to supported employment teams or independent job placement. In 2009, Opportunity Partners participants worked 149,902 hours on supported employment teams at more than 50 companies and nonprofits throughout the community, and 71 percent of 154 independently placed individuals maintained their employment for more than 90 days. United Way recently contracted with Opportunity Partners, a social enterprise, to staff its janitorial and maintenance services. This allows us to help improve the financial stability of Byron and his co-workers through program investments and through purchasing services. Byron works on a team at our Minneapolis office. Byron is proud of the progress he’s made. He started out doing light janitorial work. As he worked, some of his former skills returned. Now he’s using the carpet sweeper and the buffer, equipment he used before the accident. “My life has changed,” he said. “I have more self-worth. People here depend on me to get it done.” He plays chess with a mystery opponent in the building, making a move and leaving a note that reads “Your move next—The Maintenance Man.” Trying to remember the moves helps me up here, he says, tapping his head. Byron’s long-term goals include getting his independence back, getting a full-time job and getting off Social Security. “I don’t have that much time left,” he said. “Another 20 good years maybe…I’m looking for new and exciting things in my life.” Last year, United Way invested in job training programs that helped nearly 6,500 people get and keep their job for least six months. Our investment in health programs also helped more than 109,000 older adults and those living with disabilities maximize their independence so they can remain in their homes.
(Learn more about them at: https://www.unitedwaytwincities.org/our_impact/success_stories/opportunity_partners/)
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