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The Baltimore Community Toolbank is a remarkable organization founded on the concept of strengthening communities by acting as a vital resource to local nonprofits. Organizations apply for membership to the Toolbank and once accepted they’re provided access to hundreds of tools that they would otherwise have to buy or lease.

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Ian has worked at Toolbank for two hours a day, twice a week for the past year.  He assists with cleaning the tools after they’ve been returned. This opportunity has enriched Ian’s life.  He has found purpose and gained an extended network of friends and co workers.  In order for Ian to be successful at work, he needs to be able to move around a lot and take breaks.  Toolbank has provided the perfect work environment for Ian to be successful so that they can achieve their bottom line. 

Itineris is grateful for the Toolbank’s commitment to adults with autism. By partnering with Itineris, Toolbank is bringing awareness and acceptance to the workforce about the value of hiring adults with autism. 

“I really enjoy having Ian every week. It’s been an overall great experience. He’s very detail oriented. We have a lot of repetitive tasks that he handles for us,” remarked Rachel Thompson, Program Manager at the Toolbank.

Itineris and Toolbank connected at one of Toolbank’s member events where Itineris shared information about the employment program.  Toolbank was interested in a partnership with Itineris.  “We definitely wanted and needed the help so it was a win – win for everyone,”  Rachel commented when asked about how Toolbank and Itineris connected.

This partnership has been meaningful for both Ian and Toolbank.  On November 13th Ian will be performing “Great Balls of Fire” at Itineris’ Annual Patty Jean Flynn Talent Show.  Ian’s co workers from Toolbank will be there cheering him on. 

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At the Hearing and Speech Agency, the Itineris adults shine. There are three adults placed in at HASA who work mostly independently, in jobs for which they are well-suited. Each of them work in Gateway School at HASA, which works with children from 2-12 years of age to provide a foundation of communication and life skills for any child who has issues communicating. Itineris individuals work throughout the organization to help fulfill their mission.

Robin is working to build an archive in preparation for the agency’s 90th anniversary. She scans a large library of historic books and documents into a digital library. She carefully picks up an old activity book from over fifty years ago and scans it “to have forever,” as she puts it.

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Meanwhile, Brian is helping the agency move to electronic medical records. He scans and sorts the records, keeping them in order, and transforming the massive file room into a digital archive. “It’s definitely a process, and Brian picked up on it quickly,” his supervisor said. It’s an enormous undertaking, but Brian is more than up for the task. “I enjoy this job,” he said after showing us his meticulous process for keeping track of his progress and ensuring no record is passed over.

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In the children’s library, Louie works to organize and return books. He has written his own joke book and always has quips up his sleeve. He’s found his niche in the library. “I love it here. I do perfect here every single day. I’ve never had a meltdown here.” His job coach smiles and nods. “It is very process-oriented, which Louie just took to.”

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Louie is old friends with Robin, and enjoys being able to have lunch with her when they work on the same days.  “There’s a community here. It’s good to see everything work,” Louie remarks. Louie and Brian were once students at Gateway School at the Hearing and Speech Agency. “All the students who come to Gateway love it here. It looks like home,” says Emily Dickerson, the community engagement manager. The Itineris adults certainly are a stunning example of how the right placements and a nurturing support structure can blossom into incredible student success.

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Kim Strassner and Mike Pararas crafted their first personalized cutting boards as holiday gifts for their friends and family. The gifts were so well received the couple was inspired to launch Words with Boards, a boutique business selling hand-cut, sustainable, one of-a-kind cutting boards for weddings, anniversaries, holidays, and any other special occasion you can think of. Though the company has grown rapidly and they service a national clientele, each board is still handcrafted in their Hampden studio.

Eventually, Kim and Mike were faced with the challenge of staffing to meet growing demand. They first heard about Itineris from a contractor who was assisting in building out a larger studio for them. As soon as they found out about Itineris and its workforce development program, they got involved.

Itineris is a small, grassroots nonprofit located in the Woodberry area of Baltimore City. Itineris’ mission is to support adults with autism in all aspects of adult life. This includes job preparedness, job training, on site job coaching and teaching independent living and daily life skills.

Kim, Mike, and the Itineris employment team worked together to figure out where Words with Boards would be able to streamline their process. After discussion of the business’ needs the team came to the conclusion that folding boxes and stacking packaging is extremely time consuming for Mike and Kim whose attention would be better served focusing on other aspects of their business; these tasks, however, are perfect for an Itineris participant. And so, a packaging assistant position was created. Currently, there is one Itineris participant working at Words with Boards who begins the packaging process. During the busy season at Words with Boards, Kim and Michael have taken advantage of additional opportunities to employ Itineris participants working over the course of any given week.

This partnership proved especially valuable this past year when Words with Boards was named a Martha Stewart AMERICAN MADE design finalist and was featured in “THE O LIST” in Oprah Winfrey’s iconic list of her “Favorite Things” in O Magazine. The Itineris participant at Words with Boards added capacity to the staff and helped package and prepare the huge influx of orders.

“ITINERIS PARTICIPANTS ARE ALWAYS HERE; AND ARE ALWAYS ON TIME,” KIM REMARKED. “THEY WANT TO BE HERE. THEY ARE FOCUSED AND ON TASK FOR HOURS. IT’S REMARKABLE.” THAT CONSISTENCY AND ATTENTION TO DETAIL IS A REAL ASSET FOR SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS LIKE KIM AND MIKE.

To the owners of Words with Boards, the community is their most important customer. Their partnership with Itineris is not only a way to support others within the local community, but also provides them with a uniquely skilled workforce that helps this local, small businesses grow and thrive.

To learn more about how you can help support Itineris, please visit us at www.itinerisbaltimore.org or call us at 443.275.1100

Ami Taubenfeld, Executive Director Kerri Whalen, Director of Development

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