A newly established partnership between Gateway Behavioral Health Services and a Brunswick car wash aims to help people with developmental or learning disability integrate into a working environment.
“They’re trying to teach them working still for different environments and working on their communication skills,” said Kenneth Smith, Brunswick resident and owner of Car Doctor Detailing on Community Road.
Part of Gateway’s services is helping acclimate people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, or IDD individuals, to working environments, so they’re going to see who works best in the car wash’s environment and go from there.
“They asked me if they could have four people come over to work, doing basic stuff,” Smith said.
Smith said the process of arranging the volunteer opportunity started with his godmother, who works for Gateway.
“I just thought that it would be a great thing for local businesses to partner up with a group like that that’s actually trying to make a difference in the community,” Smith said.
A Jacksonville native, Smith experienced homeless for several years during his childhood and said he knows what it’s like to struggle to stand on your own two feet.
“For me to have reached a level of being in business for 20 years and become an author, I wrote a book, it’s very special to me to be to able to help and empower other people, teenagers and adults, to feel good about themselves,” Smith said.
Every Friday, he’s going to take on four more Gateway clients, with the intent of establishing a rotation, said Mary Lattany, Gateway site manager.
“We’re just getting this off the ground, so this is going to be brand new for us too. Hopefully, we’ll get a rotation for the ones that want to do it,” Lattany said.
Gateway worked with other companies in the past to help their clients build up work experience, and now wants to again get involved with the community is such a way.
“We have in the past, and we’re trying to get back out in the community more. We’ve had partnerships with hotels in the past, with a candle factory. We made crab traps, a lot of local fishermen would come in to do business with us,” Lattany said.
“We’re hoping whoever is available, like St. Vincent de Paul. They seem to love our guys, they get to help put up clothes and organize things. We’re trying to partner with hospice to get people to volunteer with them.”
Smith is hopeful he will be able to continue the venture as long as possible.
“I’m hoping that, as long as everything goes well for them, we’ll be able to continue it,” Smith said. “They’re going to see who works the best at it and go from there.”
Any businesses interested in participating in the program should call Gateway at 912-554-8510 and ask for either Lattany or Tamisha Rogers.
“We do want them to know we are trying to integrate more into the community, and just to let the general public know that if they have loved ones sitting at home, there are services and places for them to go,” Lattany said.