Source: Community News.com
The Social Profit Center at Mill One welcomed a new tenant when Inspired Threads moved into the renovated 125-year-old former factory on North Johnston Avenue in Hamilton. The move represents the next step for Inspired Threads, co-founded four years ago by Susan Colacello and Jeanene Leppert with the goal of creating employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Inspired Threads has a small and growing workforce of people who design and make blankets and other products out of reclaimed fabrics. What sets the staff apart at Inspired Threads is that the designers are all people with disabilities.
Colacello and Leppert wanted to create jobs, but they also wanted to show the way forward for other organizations that want to create truly inclusive workplaces. By creating customized job descriptions that maximize the designers’ strengths, and by setting them up in a supportive, barrier-free work environment, Inspired Threads is achieving its mission of successful, fair employment for all.
“We want to show that people with intellectual disabilities and other different abilities have really strong skills and talents, and if given the opportunity, they can make huge contributions,” Colacello says.
Since the move into Mill One, many of the designers have been spending at least a few hours a week in Inspired Threads’ 1,000 square feet of space in the new facility. There is a common kitchen area as well as conference rooms that Inspired Threads shares with other tenants.
Leppert and Colacello met at Special Olympics New Jersey: Leppert as a member of the staff and Colacello as a parent of a Special Olympics athlete — Kevin, who has Down syndrome, and who today is a member of the Inspired Threads staff.
“We talked and we decided that we wanted to build a nonprofit that really could look at what it takes to have meaningful inclusion in the workplace, and share that with other people,” Colacello says. “We both care about the environment too, so we had this two-pronged mission.”
Colacello says. “People with intellectual disabilities want the same opportunities that everyone else wants — instead of someone saying, ‘This is the only job we have for you.’”
Colacello says that when she asks the designers what they love about working at Inspired Threads, they say that it is because they get to be artistic. “They get to do things they love, and they’re things that make people happy. A lot of times, people just work to make money. But all human beings want to feel that they have purpose, and that’s a big part of what we’re doing.”
“We are pushing as hard as we can in our tiny little place,” Colacello adds. “But our blankets are beautiful, and what I’d like to say is that we’re bringing back craftsmanship. We’re training people to be artisans and making it so people can find their niche in life. All of our designers who are drawn to work with us are extremely creative people. They’re artists, and they’re learning regular job skills too.”