“People just don’t know what our mission is,” said Sheila Thomas, president and chief executive officer of Easter Seals East Georgia, which is on Wrightsboro Road in Augusta. “People recognize the name; they think we do good things, but they don’t know what those good things are.”
Nationally, the organization has existed for more than 90 years, and its focus has always been people with disabilities.
Easter Seals East Georgia serves 33 counties, but it’s headquartered in Augusta. Though the organization has a variety of programs in the region, the majority of them focus on providing job skills and training to disabled adults.
Last year, about 700 people received services from the non-profit organization. Thomas said some people received more than one service.
The Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency refers clients to Easter Seals. Easter Seals can provide services such as assessments, training and job placement for adults with disabilities.
“Some of the people we help are adults who’ve worked all of their lives, but they’ve had a stroke, car accident or illness that prevents them from returning to what they once did. Some are adults who were born with a birth defect or learning disability. We have a lot of people who have mental-health issues. We help anyone who has a barrier to getting and keeping a job,” she said.
Easter Seals has several contracts with businesses through which the organization is able to provide practical work experience for its clients. Manufacturers such as Georgia Vitrified and John Deere have items that need to be packaged along with their products.
Georgia Vitrified has packages of screws and other hardware that must go along with its picnic tables. These hardware kits are packaged onsite at Easter Seals’ Wrightsboro Road warehouse.
Easter Seals also partners with businesses in the community for practical experience in retail, food service and industry through a job sampling program. Easter Seals’ clients have the opportunity for some real-world experience.
Easter Seals has a custodial services program that provides a service to area businesses in addition to job experience for its clients. It also has a program to help special education students make the transition from school to the workforce.
In the past couple of years, Easter Seals locally has expanded its services outside the employment realm.
The Champions for Children program is a statewide effort that helps working families of children with special needs. Most of these families do not qualify for Medicaid because of income, but they have significant expenses related to their child’s disabilities.
Thomas said there are some strict guidelines for participating in the program. Families can receive help in a variety of ways, but some of the most common requests are for medications, medical equipment and therapy.
Easter Seals East Georgia is a nonprofit organization and has three major streams of income. It receives some state funding for specific programs; it receives money through its business contracts, and it relies heavily on donations.
Last year, Easter Seals became one of the member agencies supported by the United Way of the CSRA. Thomas said the partnership has been beneficial.
“We’ve received a lot of exposure to other companies that partner with the United Way. They’ve done tours here to show people what we do,” she said.
Also, the United Way has provided volunteer support for some Easter Seals events.
“We are really excited about this partnership,” she said.
To learn more about Easter Seals East Georgia, call (706) 667-9695.