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Helping businesses helps people with disabilities

MDS Labor Solutions

Troy Nye packages reusable canning lids as part of his work at Labor Solutions, an operation of Mesa Developmental Services that offers contract work for businesses. MDS also puts clients to work on janitorial and landscaping crews, at a retail gift shop and as employees at a variety of local businesses. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Jeff Nichols oversees an organization that provides a wide range of services to Mesa County residents with physical and intellectual disabilities.

In addition to helping clients, though, Mesa Developmental Services helps Grand Valley businesses through programs that provide janitorial, landscaping and production services. MDS also helps businesses find employees to fill what often are high-turnover positions.
When the mission of the organization intersects with the mission of a business, everyone benefits, says Nichols, chief executive officer of MDS. “It really is a win-win.”

As services for people with disabilities increasingly shift from state agencies and large institutions to community based programs in small settings, Nichols expects more of those opportunities to arise.

Now in its 45th year, MDS provides services for clients from birth to death, ranging from early intervention and prevention services to infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities and delays to home care services for families raising children with significant disabilities to group homes, therapy and training for adults. MDS serves about 650 clients, a total that includes more than 200 infants and toddlers, more than 100 families and about 340 adults.

The caseload increased about 16 percent in 2010, when  MDS opened three group homes to accommodate clients after a skilled nursing unit at the Grand Junction Regional Center was closed.

With a staff of 380, MDS ranks among the largest employers in the Grand Valley. After increasing staffing by 51 during the 2010 fiscal year, MDS paid a total of more than $9 million in salaries and benefits.

The economic effects of the organization also included an additional $6 million for the purchase of goods and services. Since MDS receives about 85 percent of its funding from the state government, most of that money comes from outside the area.

Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols

MDS provides services to businesses through SPEC-TRA, a vocational division in which clients work on janitorial and lawn and grounds crews.

Through Labor Solutions, clients provide contract services to businesses, including bulk mailing, light assembly, packaging, paper shredding and part sorting and counting. Services are available at market rates.

Marilee Langfitt, director of public relations and development for MDS, says Labor Solutions packages a number of products for local businesses, including toys for pet birds as well as reusable canning jar lids.

In addition, MDS puts clients to work at Uniquely Yours, a specialty gift shop it operates in downtown Grand Junction, and places clients with a variety of businesses.

Langfitt says many of the clients MDS recruits for businesses fill high-turnover positions with long-term employees. One such employee has worked for a fast food restaurant for 20 years. “They’ve proved themselves to be very reliable, hard-working, dedicated employees.”

Nichols says two things occur when MDS clients work for businesses: Businesses receive needed services while clients earn income and learn skills. “It really is a double benefit.”

Phil Castle is editor of the Grand Valley Business Times, a twice-monthly business journal published in Grand Junction. Castle brings to his duties nearly 30 years of experience in editorial management positions with Western Colorado newspapers. In addition, his free-lance work has appeared in a variety of publications, including the Washington Post. He holds a bachelor's degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University.
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