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Fully integrated employment – an amazing partnership with plans to expand nationally!

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Fully integrated employment – an amazing partnership with plans to expand nationally!

by: 
Dawn Wambeke, Advance Opportunities

Mid Continent Cabinetry, a substantial manufacturing operation in Cottonwood, MN which is owned by a parent organization MasterBrand Cabinets, Inc. (that collectively is the largest cabinet manufacturing operation in the world) now employees 25 individuals with disABILITIES (and soon to be closer to 45), and works in partnership with Advance Opportunities (a 501(C)3 non-profit organization established in 1963 that provides employment and training for adults with disABILITIES in Marshall, Minnesota).

Mid Continent Cabinetry hired Advance Opportunities’ employees, who are fully integrated with workers without disabilities, and are paid more than $10 an hour. The company makes custom, high-quality cabinets for homes.

The hiring process began through a personal family connection between Mid Continent’s founder and a 38-year staff member from Advance Opportunities early in 2015. The company needed help to fill open positions. “Teams went into motion to make staffing, transportation and schedule changes to open the door for this great opportunity that continues to positively affect so many individuals,” explains Advance Opportunities Executive Director Dawn Wambeke.

Two and a half years later, 25 individuals are working in a variety of jobs including barcode scanning, clipping labels, hole-punching doors, and baling cardboard and cleaning. To accommodate schedules, four (10 hour) day shifts were split in half, and the majority of employees work part-time, each in a position that matches individual strengths and abilities. Job coaches are on-site to help employees as needed.

“I like the job and feel happy when I’m there,” says Patrick, an employee known for his enthusiasm and outgoing nature. His favorite task is hole-punching, because he’s moving around the whole time and not standing in one place.

Racquel Rolla, Mid Continent Human Resources Manager, said the employees referred by Advance Opportunities have been amazing and have even changed the company’s culture, as the group brings positive attitudes and a willingness to help. “They are excited to be at work and want to do a good job.”

Another employee placed through Advance has found her niche in precisely matching drawer and door fronts to numbered carts, and is now a full time, 40-hour a week, employee. Danica said her favorite part is “meeting new people and everyone working together.” Her friendly personality and position have helped her to make lasting connections with co-workers.

A job coach, Deb, said that in her 30-year career working with people with disabilities, one of her goals was to gain greater acceptance in the community for each individual. “I feel their acceptance at Midcontinent has fulfilled that goal for me.” After a successful long term working relationship, Mid Continent Cabinetry plans to almost double their partnership with Advance Opportunities and has identified 7 additional full time job opportunities that will create approximately 20 new part time jobs!

This October, Midcontinent Cabinetry was named by the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR) as the Southwest Minnesota first annual Outstanding Disability Employer.  Nationally, Mid Continent Cabinetry is excited to replicate this amazing partnership with their sister organizations, starting in South Dakota, Virginia, North Carolina and Kansas.