Striving to serve the disabled: Businesses play a role

Ashley Boutilie prices merchandise at Uniquely Yours, a gift store in downtown Grand Junction operated by Strive. The organization, which marks 50 years in operation this year, provides a range of services to people with disabilities, including employment opportunities. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)
Ashley Boutilie prices merchandise at Uniquely Yours, a gift store in downtown Grand Junction operated by Strive. The organization, which marks 50 years in operation this year, provides a range of services to people with disabilities, including employment opportunities. (Business Times photo by Phil Castle)

Phil Castle, The Business Times

A Mesa County organization that for more than 50 years has provided services to help children and adults with developmental disabilities has grown substantially over the years.

But even as things have changed for Strive, the organization has remained committed to changing lives and perceptions, said Doug Sorter, vice president of development.

Local businesses continue to play an important role in that process, Sorter said, by contracting for services Strive provides and employing its clients, Sorter said.

Strive recently marked its 50th year in operation. The organization was established in 1966 initially as a small school at which two instructors taught 12 students with developmental disabilities, Sorter said.

As school districts subsequently took on the responsibility of educating students with special needs, the operations of Strive changed and expanded in offering other services to children and then adults, he said.

Today, Strive offers an array of services to clients of all ages, Sorter said, including early intervention services for infants and toddlers, support services for families raising children with disabilities and vocational training and group homes for adults. Strive also operates group homes offering around-the-clock skilled nursing care for people with more severe disabilities.

Strive operates 21 facilities, employs a staff of 380 and operates under an annual budget of about $17 million, Sorter said.

The mission of the organization remains the same, though, in tailoring services to meet  the individual needs and desires of clients — from something as basic as letting them choose the color of their rooms in group homes to the more complicated issues sometimes involved in deciding where to live and work.

Strive also remains committed to changing perceptions about people with disabilities and the kinds of lives they can live, Sorter said. The Grand Valley has been an accepting and loving place, he added.

Businesses long have played a role in helping Strive help clients, Sorter said.

Strive offers a range of services to businesses on a contract basis, including assembly, bulk mailing, collating, packaging, shredding and sorting. Crews also offer janitorial and landscaping services, he said.

Strive also operates a wood shop as well as retail operations at the gift shop at the Western Colorado Botanical Gardens and Uniquely Yours in downtown Grand Junction.

Many businesses also employ Strive clients on an individual basis. Strive offers assistance in offsetting training costs.

While employment promotes growth, self-confidence and sense of purpose for clients, businesses gain diligent, hard-working and loyal staff, Sorter said. Some Strive clients have worked for the same businesses for nearly 20 years. “There are a ton of advantages for both.”  Sorter said.

For more information about the various programs and services offered by Strive, call 243-7751 or log on to the Web site located at www.strivecolorado.org.