Is it a gateway to a life filled with purpose and joy?
For you, “work” may be the time spent away from home, which you, unfortunately, may dread. A grind, often repeated, by arriving at the designated time, to begin the tasks required, to provide funds which you spend on living? But, for others, work provides purpose and meaning to their lives.
You and I, we all have friends who complain, with fervor, about this essential “evil” they must endure. More often than not, such beings tend to be unhappy and unmotivated in life. As leisure activities, they may be prey to self-destructive and addictive distractions when not at work.
Now, let’s add a disability. You are an adult with a physical, perhaps mental, or even an emotional challenge? You now have an obstacle—one which seriously limits your employment opportunities. You are now in the 80 percentile of adults with disabilities who are unemployed in the United States today. With a slim chance to have the gift of a job opportunity.
In the past, there existed supportive work programs. Daily programs which benevolent parents and professionals created to provide meaningful employment for adults with disabilities. Meaningful employment, which we all long for, simply stated, is a job where you work with others. You have social interactions as you accomplish your required tasks. You receive support and encouragement. Best of all, you get paid for doing so! You rejoice in receiving the weekly envelope with your pay.
You are providing a service for others.
As Aristotle once said:
“Where you’re talents and the needs of the world cross, there lies your vocation.”
It is sad to report that these supportive employment centers have shut their doors in New York State and many others over the past few years. Someone had the impression that sheltered supportive work programs were demeaning. “We need to provide adults with disabilities opportunities to earn a competitive wage in competitive employment, not have them in sheltered work programs.”
Let’s ask a simple question; How does a wheelchair-bound, blind adult find competitive employment? They, like thousands of others, need a supportive work environment. Closer to home, let’s look at my son EJ, who happens to have Down syndrome; where does he find a competitive job? Without an employer with experience working with this population, it is almost impossible. Especially since Covid, many of the mainstream jobs are disappearing.
EJ was fortunate; an excellent facility opened in our region seven years ago. – The Prospector Theater! EJ, who loves to work, was blessed to be accepted as an employee. To be an employee, one must want to work and be open to attempting all the different available jobs. You become part of a team, working side by side with supervisors. All jobs make a difference, and none are demeaning.
The Prospector Theater is a 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to providing competitive and integrated employment to people with disabilities through operating a premium, first-run movie theater in Ridgefield, CT.
Employees of the Theater are known as Prospects. Approximately 75% of the workforce self-identify with a disability. As a result, they provide a wide range of opportunities to find the “sparkle,” their passion, and transform their “sparkle” into professions while earning paychecks with competitive wages.
Through education, engagement, and entertainment, they showcase the incredible talents and employability of the Prospects. Prospects work every job at the Theater – selling tickets, popping popcorn, filming, hosting events, editing, programming, landscaping, embroidery, service learning, marketing, information technology, strategic planning, graphic design, ICT, game design, grant writing, baking, research, web design, data analytics, costume-making, and so much more! This broad opportunity of different experiences exposes the Prospects to the community, many of who have never interacted with adults with disabilities. Through such interactions, local employers have provided jobs at their businesses.
More than 82% of Americans with disabilities are unemployed. In addition, over 1,000,000 more Americans with disabilities have lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Prospector Theater is a solution to the unemployment crisis.
Meaningful employment is vital to a person’s mental, social, financial, and emotional health. The Prospector model improves the quality of life for countless people with disabilities, their families, and their communities.
Through the operation of a movie theater, Prospects pair with jobs that highlight their strengths and passions – or, as we call it, “sparkle.”
Perhaps your “sparkle” is to provide an opportunity for someone to have meaningful employment.
Meaningful employment is vital to a person’s mental, social, financial, and emotional health. The best job is one where you are in an environment consisting of coworkers who support you, inspire you, and motivate you. Most importantly, they accept you for “who” you are. Not what you are or what you do!
For more information on the Mission of the Prospector Theater, go to prospectortheater.org
George Greczylo is an Emmy Award-winning veteran of lighting design for Theatre, Dance, Opera, Concert, and Broadcast venues. His broadcast experience ranges from presidential town meetings to live Studio shows for the NY Yankees, Bleacher Report, Turner Sports, and NY Giants.
George is also a member of the Board of Directors for the Prospector Theater actively supporting their mission to provide meaningful employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.
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