CHICAGO - More than 55 percent of employed people with disabilities have lost their jobs since March 2020, according to The Developmental Disabilities Network.
A Northbrook non-profit is working to change that, with spare change.
"I love my job and I've been there for a long time," Erin Diamond said of her job as a grocery bagger at Mariano’s.
When the pandemic threatened her job, she counted on a new program to help her retain the skills she’s learned along the way.
"There was a board member who actually came to me with this great idea. She was cleaning out her aunt's house and found all these coins and she started separating them and rolling them and counting them and she thought about our adults who really love to do things and she said this would be a great job for them," said Jen Phillips, Executive Director of Keshet.
Keshet, which means rainbow in Hebrew, is an international organization that assists children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Many of the program participants held jobs in the retail and hospitality industries. They are jobs that aren’t coming back.
"Ninety-four percent of them lost their jobs and are unemployed. And we really needed to find something for them to do," said Phillips.
So, the "Coins for Keshet" program was born.
For over a year, Keshet has been collecting coins from the community to teach participants finance and counting skills, making sure they don’t lose valuable skills that they’ve gained over the years.
"I get to go to the bank and turn in the money," said Keshet participant Doug Spreckman.
"The hope is that what they've taken from this job is opportunity. They're going to be able to go out in the community and look for a job and they're going to feel that confidence again," said Phillips.
Keshet has collected thousands of dollars through the program. But now, they’ve run out of coins! If you’d like to donate, Keshet will pick the coins up from you or your business, or you can drop them off at their Northbrook location at 610 Academy Drive.
And if you’re hiring, give Keshet a call. They have employees waiting for you!