Meet Tim! Tim was diagnosed with autism at the age of 6. His journey with MRI began in 1999 when he joined the situational assessment program, and shortly after that, he switched to the work assessment program. For all of his adult life, Tim has been highly motivated and has a strong desire to work. In March of 2000, the work assessment program placed him in a community job at a local grocery store. Although he enjoys to work, something didn’t feel right for Tim. It was at this point MRI made a real impact on his life by recognizing that the community job wasn’t a good fit for him. In July of 2002, Tim began his job working in License Plates as a labeler and has been working there ever since.
“My favorite thing about MRI is my job!”
Up until recently when COVID-19 began, Tim was working a lot; at least four days a week! He loves labeling license plates and does it extremely well. Since returning back to MRI from quarantine last year, he has been able to continue working. However, due to COVID restrictions and the decrease in orders, he isn’t able to work as often.
MRI is very thankful to have such a hard working employee like Tim!
Additionally, Tim joined the CDS (developmental training) program in 2002. Since then he has formed bonds with many of his caseworkers and can even remember each and every one of their names. CDS is an environment where he is able to effectively communicate his wants and needs and they are heard and recognized. Moreover, MRI creates an outlet in which Tim can socialize and build lasting friendships.
In his interview, Tim shared and demonstrated a really cool fact about himself. He is able to recall and memorize routes and the road names to get to various destinations. For example, he can recall in detail the route from Illinois to Florida!
Meet Lawrence! Lawrence has received services from MRI for the past 16 years. Everyone who has ever interacted with or heard Lawrence’s story will tell you he has overcome a life-time’s worth of obstacles and has so much to be proud of. MRI is so happy and proud to share Lawrence’s story of becoming independent and living on his own!
When asked about Lawrence, Dominic, Lawrence’s Case Manager, who was his CDS group leader at the time in 2009, shared that when he was born, him and his twin sister were put into the foster care system. Lawrence only knew his twin for a year before they were separated. Growing up not knowing his family created a bitterness inside of Lawrence that made him very weary and distrusting of people. He has had a life-long dream of living independently, however, his attitude was the number one obstacle blocking him from accomplishing his dream.
Nonetheless, as time went on MRI staff, like Dominic, continued to show him love, care, and support that eventually broke down the walls of distrust and bitterness surrounding him. Once he realized that he was loved, valued, and supported, he gained the confidence and ability to interact and communicate with the people who wanted to help make his dreams come true. We asked Lawrence what motivated him to become independent and he told us that he wasn’t thriving in an environment where he lived with others and realized he would be much happier living on his own. In order to equip Lawrence with the tools needed to successfully live on his own, he was coached and took classes at MRI that taught him household skills, health maintenance, and money management. With the support of his MRI staff, Lawrence was able to take small steps each year towards accomplishing his goal.
Lawrence lived in our Main Street group home for 10 years before moving into an apartment of his own in 2020.
We were told that there was concern that Lawrence would have trouble keeping up with cleaning based on his cleaning habits in the group home. However, when we visited him in his apartment it was immaculate, and yet he was still concerned that it wasn’t clean enough! Likewise, Lawrence had his own concerns about living on his own. At some point earlier in his life he was traumatized by a house fire that electrocuted his brother, and was fearful that something similar would happen in his apartment. In order to overcome this obstacle, he began taking cooking and safety group classes. At first he was quiet and unwilling to participate in class, but now he is interacting and comfortable learning to cook new things. Lastly, being independent and responsible for his own place has taught Lawrence money discipline like the importance of saving, and the difference between wants and needs. Before he lived on his own, he struggled with controlling his spending urges but now he has a savings and his own debit card. Not only is he saving money, but he’s saving money to learn more about and to reconnect with his family.
“My dream is to become my own guardian and to move to Chicago to be with my family.” -Lawrence
While visiting him, Lawrence also told us that his dream is to become his own guardian and to move to Chicago. Over the past few years, he has gathered information about his family with the help of his Direct Support Professional staff member, Cathy. He even got to go to Chicago with her and meet his family for the first time. Dominic also played a large role by providing him support and building his self-esteem by reminding him that he is valuable and worthy of knowing his family. While discovering his family, he became aware that he had another sister who passed away due to an illness. To honor her, Lawrence saved money to be able to get a tattoo on his arm in remembrance of her. He also has a tattoo of his parents! Furthermore, he had recently purchased his mother, father, and sister’s death certificates and is now looking into his parent’s marriage license. Family is tremendously important to Lawrence, and with the help of MRI staff, he has reconnected with his family and is learning as much as he can about them.
It is easy to see how driven Lawrence is, he has not let any of life’s obstacles or burdens keep him from his goals and dreams. Congratulations on becoming independent, Lawrence!
Lawrence wanted to give a special thanks to the many people who helped him get to where he is today. His Case Manager, Dominic, Tonya, who used to work at MRI as the music teacher who really motivated him, his guardian Cathy Sturm, Prairieland staff who helped him along his journey, as well as Cindy Burns and Cathy Davis who advocated for him. He also wanted to thank Jill Blue for always motivating him to keep up his hygiene.
Meet Shawn! Shawn has worked at Walmart for 3 months as a cart retriever. He also assists in carrying out groceries for customers!
Shawn first came to MRI back in 2013. After working a couple of jobs that didn’t work out, Shawn decided that he wanted to go back to school. With help from the Division of Rehabilitation (DRS) and his vocational counselor there, Shawn enrolled at Richland Community College. During his time at Richland he was active in the media club, BDS, and received an outstanding volunteer award. In 2019, Shawn graduated with his Associate’s degree!
After Shawn graduated, he came back to MRI’s Community Employment program and Dee McMillen assisted him in the job process. Dee helped Shawn find businesses that were hiring and assisted him with the application process. Shawn told us how Dee always encouraged Shawn not to give up and keep a positive attitude during his job search and even after he was hired in his current job at Walmart! When Shawn was hired, Dee helped with the new hire paperwork and even spoke to Shawn’s new manager about what would help him be successful in his new job.
Shawn loves his job at Walmart, and having a job in the community makes him feel so happy. He told us how his favorite part is working together as a team and the comradery he feels amongst his co-workers.
We asked Shawn if he had experienced any difficulties working at Walmart and how he handled them. He said,
“I have struggled at times learning the job and keeping the carts in line or keep them from blowing away. With a co-workers help I figured out the best way to do the job and make it easier for me.” – Shawn
Shawn loves working in the community. Without this job he told us he would probably just be sitting at home. We are so glad that Shawn has found a job in the community doing something that he enjoys!
Here are a couple of fun facts about Shawn:
- If Shawn could learn how to do anything, it would be to learn to drive a car!
- Shawn’s dream job is to be a Sports Broadcaster
Meet Roger! Roger has worked at MRI for 34 years and currently works as a License Plate Tech in the Production department. He specifically works on the blanking line, but in the past has worked on roller coating and embossing. Roger knows A LOT about license plates!
We asked Roger why his job is important and he told us how license plates provides a good service for the state, and because if it weren’t for them, no one could drive! We couldn’t agree more.
Roger came to MRI out of high school and entered MRI’s Regular Work Program (now known as Supportive Employment). Before coming to MRI, Roger worked at a daycare at a church in Springfield.
You can tell that Roger really loves his job and is an extremely hard worker. When we asked him what he loved most he said “Everything. The people I work with are easy to get along with. The job is not too stressful” If he could switch jobs with anyone at MRI he definitely would not want to be the boss. Instead, he would want to switch with Dewayne, who is his foreman!
Here are a couple other fun facts we learned about Roger:
- If Roger had unlimited funds, he said he would invest in something
- His dream job is the job he’s currently doing at MRI
Meet Ian! Ian came to MRI’s Supportive Employment Program in 2019 as a referral, where he worked with staff member, Dee McMillen, on finding a job.
Dee started the process by asking Ian lots of questions to help him determine the type of job he would be interested in. From the job search, to interview prep, to the hiring process, Dee was there to support Ian throughout his community employment journey.
Ian was hired in the fall of 2019 to work in the kitchen at St. Mary’s Hospital as part of the utensils group. He was responsible for washing pots and pans and delivering food carts to some of the patients! Two very important tasks of working in a hospital.
Even though Ian is currently laid off due to COVID-19, in his short time at St. Mary’s he has learned a lot and had some great experiences. It meant a lot to Ian when his supervisors appreciated him. He told us about one time when they told him how awesome he was and even gave him some goodies as a thank you.
Ian has also experienced situations of uncertainty while working at St. Mary’s. Sometimes he just wasn’t sure what he should do when his main tasks were finished, so he would take on extra duties like mopping the floors or just simply ask his supervisor what else he could help with. We love Ian’s initiative!
Having a job in the community means a lot to Ian. He told us it makes him feel “happy and excellent”. We are so glad he has found a job that he loves!
Here are some fun facts to get to know Ian even more:
- When he isn’t working, he loves to play his Wii!
- If he could learn how to do anything, he would want to learn how to win Wheel of Fortune (us too, Ian!)
- Ian’s dream job is to be a professional baseball player
For our second National Disability Employment Awareness month spotlight, meet Chaini! Chaini has worked at Evergreen Senior Living for the past 2 years as a Dining Server, where she helps prepare meal trays by placing sides on the trays. She also wraps silverware, washes dishes and puts them away!
Chaini came to MRI two years ago looking for a job in the community. Through MRI’s Supportive Employment Program Chaini was placed into a position at Evergreen Senior Living. This job was a perfect fit for Chaini because throughout her interview she kept mentioning how much she likes to help people. She has a heart of gold!
The start of a new job can be scary and challenging. To help Chaini adapt to her new position, for the first couple of weeks Sandra, a staff member from MRI’s Supportive Employment Program, helped her throughout her training. Sandra helped Chaini by helping her learn her new duties, and explaining them to her in a way that she could easily understand. Sandra often checks in on Chaini and assists her with computer trainings as part of her position. Chaini admitted that in the beginning of her new job, it was challenging. She told us how she had to learn how to listen carefully and how her co-workers were there to support her anytime she needed assistance or had questions. Overall, Chaini has had a very positive experience working at Evergreen and truly loves her job and the people she serves there.
We asked Chaini what she would be doing if she didn’t have to work. “I don’t know, maybe reading. This is why I have a job, I didn’t want to be seen as being lazy, sitting around the house all day or be seen as a kid. This job is gratifying for me. I feel like I’m needed and contributing to the community.” – Chaini
Chaini having a job is a stepping stone to the many other goals and dreams she wants to achieve. A few at the top of her list are to be independent, live on her own, learn to drive and open her own business where she can help people!
Lastly, we asked Chaini how working in the community makes her feel. “It makes me feel like I can be self-sufficient, like I can think on my own and be an adult. At times, I didn’t feel comfortable doing certain tasks, fearful to do a new things, but once you get used to it and press on, it gets easier.” – Chaini
Thank you Chaini for sharing your story with us!
In 1983, we unveiled the first license plate made at Macon Resources, Inc. (MRI) This was an incredibly historic day that forever changed the landscape for individuals with developmental disabilities in our community. You can’t see the photo that well, but it’s hard to miss the smiles and pride on those we serve’s faces.
Almost 40 years later, we are proud to still be making all license plates for the State of Illinois. In fact, 60% of the work done in license plates is by individuals with developmental disabilities! So today, for our first National Disability Employment Awareness Month feature, we are proud to highlight a woman who has been here since that first plate was made in 1983. It’s the woman in the photo holding the “First One” license plate. Meet Barb!
Barb has worked at MRI since 1979. Over 40 years ago, she came to MRI’s Supportive Employment Program looking for assistance in finding a job. Throughout this process, Barb realized she would like to work at MRI, as she liked the types of jobs they had to offer. The Supportive Employment staff assisted her through the resume and application process and Barb was hired!
Barb started out working in license plates, but later wanted to try something different, so she joined our Janitorial department where she currently still works! Barb loves working at the rest areas. We asked her if she ever thought she might want to work somewhere else and she said “No! I love working at MRI and want to keep working here.” Barb went on to tell us that loves to work because it gives her something to do that she enjoys!
Other fun things we learned about Barb:
- If she could go anywhere on a vacation, she would go to Hawaii!
- She would love to learn how to cook fried chicken
- Her dream job would be to babysit kids
Decatur, IL – Macon Resources, Inc. (MRI) held a kickoff event on Thursday, October 4 to celebrate their newly renovated gym and announce a new addition to the MRI campus, Meaningful Meadows, an innovative outdoor activity center for adults with developmental disabilities. Meaningful Meadows will be one of the most unique inclusive recreational areas offered in the state of Illinois for adults with developmental disabilities. Construction on the activity center will start this fall with plans for completion by the start of summer 2019.
Meaningful Meadows will include the following features throughout the acre and a half park:
- Exercise – features include a walking path, basketball court, and splash pad
- Sensory – includes a small pond, chimes, butterfly garden, plants and flowers, a sound board, and “car wash”
- Occupational – includes bird baths, planters, and a weather station, which will give clients the opportunity to be employed through feeding the birds and taking care of the grounds
- Escape – features several different quiet and relaxing areas around the grounds
- Social – consists of sitting areas, an outside classroom, and a spot for yard games
“This outdoor activity space is an innovative, creative and exciting addition to the services we offer for the people we serve,” said Amy Bliefnick, CEO/President of MRI. “The ability to utilize the outdoor space with sensory and exercise opportunities is much needed and highly anticipated.”
“The activity center will be very incredible,” said Carl, a client at MRI. “I like all of the activities we have at MRI, and the new outdoor activity center will help us be better physically and spiritually.”
MRI is a non-profit organization in Decatur, Illinois, that provides services to promote the growth, independence, and self-worth of children and adults with disabilities. Established in 1988 through the consolidation of Progress Resource Center and Macon County Rehabilitation facilities, today, MRI has grown to be the largest provider of services for adults and children with cognitive, intellectual or developmental disabilities in the region with 270 employees that serve over 800 adults and children through programming such as: children’s prevention and home visiting, day care, after-school care, summer camps, case management, residential services, life skills training, vocational training, job placement, and volunteerism to achieve a meaningful place in our community.
Contact: Rachel Barter
MRI PR and Development Manager