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Lakestate envelope campaign kicks off

ESCANABA — As it has done in the past, Lakestate Industries is asking local residents to support its annual endowment fund campaign. Envelopes for the campaign can be found in today’s issue of the Daily Press.

According to Executive Director Cheryl Ohman, the endowment fund was created as a source of “rainy day” funding for Lakestate.

“The plan is to only spend the interest earned off that fund,” she said.

So far, Lakestate has not had to dip into the fund itself.

The annual campaign in support of the fund began in 2011. Ohman said donations to the campaign will support Lakestate’s mission of teaching vocational skills and job development for adults with barriers to employment.

“Ultimately, the funds — any size — help our clients grow as individuals and help our local economy,” she said.

Lakestate has aimed to help local people with disabilities develop work-related skills and experience since it was established as “Delta Rehab” in 1969. However, some changes have come to Lakestate recently in response to new federal guidelines calling for people with disabilities to be integrated more heavily into their communities.

Among these changes is a greater emphasis on community skill-building, which helps Lakestate clients learn community, interpersonal and transportation-related skills.

“We teach a class, and then we go out in the community and practice what they learned,” Ohman said.

Lakestate has also been placing more people with disabilities in community-integrated jobs. Additionally, it now hires people without disabilities.

These changes started being introduced at Lakestate about a year ago. Legislation establishing the new federal guidelines officially went into effect in March.

Today, Ohman said Lakestate offers a “continuum” of services. Lakestate’s clients often start by going through community skill-building. They then work at Lakestate before moving to working in the community on a mobile crew and, finally, finding an individual placement at a business in the area.

Ohman said the process of making changes at Lakestate to comply with the new federal guidelines went quite smoothly.

“It was a lot of work … but the staff here has been incredible,” she said.

She also felt the changes have allowed Lakestate to better prepare its clients for community employment.

Lakestate continues to offer the products and services it has in the past.

“(We’re) still doing all the same things,” Ohman said.

These include subcontracting work, products made in Lakestate’s wood shop and janitorial services. Lakestate also produces Yooper Firestarters, which have been highly successful.

“We’ve just been selling so many firestarters and shipping them all over the country,” Ohman said.

Ohman thanked people in the area for their continued willingness to provide financial aid to Lakestate.

“We are very appreciative of the community support,” she said.

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