An interview with Lifeworks Regional Manager, Raquel Sidie-Wagner.
What is Lifeworks Community Skill Building?
Community Skill Building (CSB) is an inclusive approach to advancing choice and building independence. The heart of CSB is providing opportunities for people to explore their interests and develop skills within their community – that can then be transferred to the rest of their lives.
Where does Lifeworks offer CSB?
We are continually expanding our service area. Right now, Lifeworks CSB groups are located in: Apple Valley, Brooklyn Park, Golden Valley, Hastings, Mankato, Scott County, St. Paul, and West St. Paul.
How many people participate in CSB?
Lifeworks currently serves approximately 100 people through CSB. Groups typically include anywhere from six to eight people with Lifeworks staff providing support in the community.
Who decides what groups do in the community?
CSB is designed with flexibility in mind so that the people served can lead the experience. CSB participants use an assessment tool to determine what skills they want to build. Groups are then formed based on identified, personal goals; they also come together to discuss what they would like to learn.
What are some of the skills that CSB helps people develop?
In many situations outside of Lifeworks, people with disabilities tend not to be asked what they want and decisions are often made for them without their input. Self-advocacy through communication is a big focus for Lifeworks CSB. Essentially, learning how to say what you want and need. Also, the population we serve is unfortunately accustomed to being in segregated environments, so some of the work is understanding how to engage and be successful in different places – both learning how to identify which ones are comfortable and navigating those that may have barriers.
How do groups get to the community?
To reduce reliance on Lifeworks and foster independence, we leverage public transportation such as Metro Mobility when possible because it offers more extensive geographic coverage and flexible times. Most Lifeworks CSB groups also have vehicles equipped to be accessible and ensure safety.
What are some examples of CSB outings?
From navigating transportation – whether that be by bus or ride-sharing apps – to ordering food from a restaurant and money management, it all depends on what people want to explore in their community and the skills they want to develop. Many of the CSB groups choose to volunteer with organizations like Feed my Starving Children and VEAP.
What makes Lifeworks CSB unique from other Day Service offerings?
CSB at Lifeworks is 100 percent participant driven. We honor choice – listening, motivating, and encouraging everyone to reach their full potential. Our highly-skilled staff are dedicated to our mission and love what they do.
How has CSB impacted your relationships with local businesses?
Despite being the largest minority group, the people we serve are deeply underrepresented in the community – and we’re working to change that. Studies show that a more inclusive workforce leads to greater outcomes, so bringing in people who can help businesses understand ways they can improve and welcome diverse populations is better for everyone. We have also found that if a business has a staff person who champions inclusion — it can make all the difference. If someone there is passionate about advocating for the people we serve, it opens the door for us to build greater community.
How can local businesses help support CSB?
We are always in need of spaces for the group to learn and eat lunch – especially during the holidays when places such as libraries and community centers are closed. And we aren’t picky. The space just has to be accessible with a restroom. Cost is often a barrier to access so another way local businesses have helped in the past is by sponsoring a group membership to local offerings such as the YMCA.
Support CSB by visiting: lifeworks.org/donate and making a donation to help pay for local memberships for our groups. Interested in learning more about CSB? Call us at 651-365-3773.