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New program gives individuals with Down Syndrome jobs, training

Sunburst Snacks 'snack boxes' available for purchase
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Posted at 6:31 PM, Jun 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-08 19:06:19-04

Chips, candy, granola bars galore — who doesn’t love snacks?!

Sunburst Snacks is a new employment program at the Down Syndrome Association of Northeast Ohio — giving individuals with Down Syndrome the chance to work and learn countless new skills all at the same time.

The inaugural team includes Jeffrey “The DUDE” Dudziak, 35, of Garfield Heights, Erin Greene, 35, of Lyndhurst and Ted Boughton, 31, of South Euclid.

They take part in the program four days a week to pack snack boxes that they sell to the community, online or at pop-up shops like at the Cuyahoga County Board of Disabilities.

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Will Sanborn is the adult employment program coordinator and said the goal is to prepare individuals with Down Syndrome for employment down the road.

“So we practice a wide variety of business skills that can be transferred to any number of industries,” Sanborn said.

The workers are paid $12 an hour, but the skills they learn are priceless.

Beyond teamwork and independence, there are a ton of practical applications as well.

“We practice taking an inventory, making a shopping list, shopping, packing the boxes, we do marketing with social media,” Sanborn said.

They also learn customer service skills like counting cash, accepting credit cards, and using a point of sale system.

The team learns all of that while having a good time and engaging in a little friendly competition.

“It’s a wonderful place to come to work,” Sanborn said. “We laugh, we joke; if there’s a hiccup along the way, we work through it.”

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In just a few short months, the program has been a huge success — more than 600 boxes sold, and the smiles number too high to count.

All the proceeds go right back into the program.

If you would like to purchase a box, or a hundred, for your workplace, your family, or yourself, you can find them by clicking here.

Snack boxes can be shipped, delivered, or picked up from the DSANEO offices in Independence.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 19.1% of people with a disability were employed in 2021, compared to 63.7% of people without a disability.