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Reaching their full potential

LifeWorks serves special needs community

-Submitted photo
Jay Johnson has been a client of LifeWorks since 2004. The organization has helped Johnson get his own apartment and a job.

Jay Johnson moved into his first apartment 10 years ago, with support from LifeWorks Community Services.

“When Jay first associated with LifeWorks, he lived in a (group home),” said Curt Duffield, LifeWorks vocational director. “(LifeWorks) helped him gain the skills to which he was able to move out into his own apartment.”

LifeWorks, whose headquarters office is located at 1303 A St. in Fort Dodge, offers vocational, residential and community support services to individuals with mental, physical or developmental disabilities.

“We started providing services for people with disabilities in 1966,” said Teresa Naughton, LifeWorks executive director.

In the 54 years that LifeWorks has been operating in Fort Dodge, the organization has served “thousands,” she estimated.

-Submitted photo
Fareway store Manager Chris Palm poses with employee Wolfgang “Wolfie” Dillingham. Dillingham works at Fareway with support from LifeWorks.

“LifeWorks serves not just people with intellectual disabilities, but we also serve people with mental illness,” Naughton added.

The services offered by LifeWorks are largely funded by Medicaid, a budget of about $6.2 million annually.

For its residential services, LifeWorks offers a Home and Community Based Services Site Program, which provides 24-hour support to adults with disabilities. In Fort Dodge and Humboldt, LifeWorks has 17 24-hour sites.

For clients who wish to live independently or with family, LifeWorks has its Supported Community Living program, which brings LifeWorks specialists into clients’ homes to help teach daily living skills like housekeeping, cooking, medication management and more.

“In providing direct support to people with disabilities, sometimes they don’t need 24-hour care,” Naughton said. “Sometimes they need someone to help them with their money while they’re living on their own.”

-Submitted photo
Danielle Jessen, a client of LifeWorks, snuggles a cat.

Through grant funding, LifeWorks serves about 40 residents at the Wahkonsa Apartments with its Supported Community Living program.

For its day services, LifeWorks has a program that helps assist clients with exploring career and job opportunities, as well as work crews that do jobs like custodial duties at Head Start and Iowa Central Community College. For clients looking for a little more independence with employment, LifeWorks has another option.

“We have supported employment, a program where people can have their own job and we provide a coach so that they can work and the employer doesn’t have to provide more intensive support,” Naughton said.

LifeWorks has clients that work all over the Fort Dodge area, from Buffalo Wild Wings, to McDonald’s, to Fareway, to Almost Home, to the Humota Theater (Humboldt) and more.

The non-work program that LifeWorks offers to its clients is called Day Habilitation.

-Submitted photo
LifeWorks Case Coordinator Jill Matthes poses with client Belinda Heitner.

“That program teaches skills in areas like wellness, safety, community integration, community mobility, socialization, activities of daily living and leisure skills,” Naughton said.

Participants in the day habilitation program also volunteer in the community at places like food pantries and Almost Home.

The work crews and day habilitation programs have had to scale down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Naughton said, but she said she hopes to bring the programs back to normal soon.

Johnson first started using LifeWorks’ services in 2004. Through its programs, he was eventually able to move into his own apartment and find a job.

Johnson has been working at Buffalo Wild Wings for the past three years as a janitor and he loves it, he said.

He’s also worked on the work crews and has made “lots of friends” over the years at LifeWorks.

Duffield, as vocational director, enjoys working with the clients at LifeWorks, helping them gain some better quality of life.

“I like helping individuals reach their fullest potential, whether it be living on their own or finding a job,” he said.

For those interested in utilizing the services offered by LifeWorks, applications for services can be found on the organization’s website www.lifeworkscommunityservices.org, or the organization can be reached at 515-576-2126.

“I love LifeWorks,” Naughton said. “I see the good it does in the lives of people with disabilities. Knowing that people don’t need to live in an institution, that they can live in their home community and be just like anyone else and that we provide them the support so that they are like everybody else.”

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