PARMA, Ohio — The Parma Area Center for Transition Services (PACTS) has come up with a twist in an effort to continue promoting independence among students with disabilities coping with the pandemic.
“The kids are awesome. It truly is such an eclectic group,” said PACTS Intervention Specialist, Katie Vento. “They want to learn and soak up as much as they possibly can. They’re wonderful.”
The program caters to Parma area special needs students from ages 18 to 22, who have already met their graduation requirements. The students and their families are typically seeking extra training in integrated employment, community and self-care.
“We want them to be thriving members in the community,” said Vento.
Vento says coronavirus restrictions and potential spread forced her team to reinvent the program. The routine of students visiting job sites two half days out of the week and one-half day in the community for hands-on workforce experience was no longer an option. So, she and her team decided to create a business called “PACTS Custom Gifts.”
Vento explained, in the beginning, their first order was a customized sign for their school’s principal, but eventually they were flooded with requests from other staff members. Their gifts range from wooden signs, totes, t-shirts and other customized items.
“They’re not only learning how to do customer service, returning emails, writing orders but they’re also sanding, staining wood and cutting wood,” Vento explained. “We have a lot of people collaborating with us that have made it successful, so we are just so lucky
One hundred percent of the proceeds from sales go back into the PACTS program to help with supplies, equipment and other events to help celebrate its students.
“I feel so lucky that Parma saw the need for this,” Vento said. “There needs to be an awareness and acceptance of these students and these beautiful people in our community.”
PACTS hopes to expand its online shop to the community. However, they’re working on ways to ease the volume of orders that could come in so their students aren’t overwhelmed.