Albert Lea nonprofit plays a vital part

Published 9:00 am Sunday, March 1, 2020

Cedar Valley Services provides vocational training for about 150 people with disabilities in Freeborn County


For 20 years, Albert Lean Stacie Warner has worked through Cedar Valley Services.

When she started, she could only work at the organization’s on-site facility, but over time has had training and she can now work offsite with a crew and even independently on some days, said Garry Hart, division director.

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She works about 28 to 30 hours a week, mainly cleaning at various locations, she said. She lives on her own in an apartment but because she does not have a driver’s license she relies on taxis, SMART Transit and Cedar Valley Services for transportation to and from work.

Warner is one of about 150 people in Freeborn County who benefit from Cedar Valley Services, which provides vocational training for people ages 18 and over with disabilities.

“Our main goal is employment for people with disabilities at a long-term independent job site or a supported job site,” Hart said.

Hart said Cedar Valley Services has been in Freeborn County for over 50 years and has locations in Austin, Owatonna and Albert Lea.

“We’re the only program that works with people with significant disabilities in Freeborn County,” Hart said. “If they did not have that service, they would not be able to work or be gainfully employed.”

The organization relies on state and county funding for it to be a reality. He said people who benefit from the state-funded program typically live in group homes, while the people in the county-funded program live on their own but need support with transportation, job coaching or other skills.

One of the products Cedar Valley Services employees work on is putting together a warranty pack for a business that makes doors. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Employees with various job opportunities.

Hart said the organization has about 30 contracts, including janitorial work through Motor Inn Co., Lou-Rich, the Vitality Center, Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, Godfather’s Pizza and the Village Cooperative, to name a few.

Employees also do some subcontract work for Interstate Packaging, Minnesota Corrugated Box, Larson Manufacturing and Hormel Foods. In addition, they have commercial laundry capabilities and do laundry for Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea, Thorne Crest Senior Living Community and a few other smaller contracts, he said.

Hart said Cedar Valley Services plays a vital part in the area.

“It’s very important for us to have them be a part of the community,” he said of the people the organization employs.

If people have a loved one who they think could benefit from the organization, he encouraged them to get a county referral. He noted many people with a disability are already receiving support from the county in other ways.

Cedar Valley Services also provides transportation for the community — not only the people it is working with, but others, including seniors and preschools.

“For Cedar Valley, our biggest barrier for people was public transportation,” Hart said. “We knew that was a need, and we figured we could help other people.”

Hart encouraged people to contact him if they have questions about the organization or getting a loved one involved at 377-2893.


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