ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The unemployment rate in the U.S. currently stands at 3.4%. Data from New York State, however, shows up to 70% of people with disabilities don’t have a job. The nonprofit Capabilities was founded in Elmira in 1956. Today, 67 years later, it continues to empower people by providing opportunities to enter the workforce.

“Capabilities was started by a group of community members who were looking for opportunities for their children with disabilities to get into the workforce,” said Chief Operating Officer Katrina Manning. “A lot of organizations like ours started around that timeframe as parents were starting to realize that they wanted more for their children.”

“Our focus is to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, other barriers to employment, people living with in mental health recovery, substance use recovery, learning disabilities, so we run a number of business opportunities that create those employment opportunities. That then translates into people getting some work experience. Then our goal is that they’ll move on from working for us and work for other businesses in the local area,” said Manning.

Those opportunities include working in the upholstery workshop, some assembly work for local manufacturers, a large janitorial business, and most recently, the Elmira Tea and Coffee House on Water Street.

“We’re truly proud of everything that we do here in our upholstery department,” said William Kasian, Director of Business Development for Capabilities. “We do everything from residential services, commercial services, marine automotive applications, and provide many fabrics and materials that suit either function. We do also get some much larger projects, auditoriums, things of that nature. At one given time, we can have up to about 400 different chairs for an organization that’s being worked on at one time.”

“In this day and age, there’s a lot of things that are just kind of made to be disposable. And one thing that’s really impressive that is to really keep that craft around providing as a service for individuals that can really restore either those flea market finds and those family heirlooms that they have” said Kasian.

Capabilities says it currently employs about 200 people.

“Maybe they haven’t worked in a long time. Maybe they have a learning disability and really struggle to navigate the workforce. So, by us providing them an opportunity to enter the workforce and give them some work experience, they’re able to build some skills and build some confidence,” said Manning.

“You know, we live in a society where the first thing people ask you, if they ask you your name, is where do you work? So, if you don’t have a job that can be really tough for folks, and we know that work benefits people’s overall well-being, not just financially to be able to pay your bills, but it gives you purpose to get up in the morning and have someplace to go. It really does change people’s lives.”

If you would like to have a piece of furniture upholstered, click here.

If you would like more information about employment opportunities at Capabilities, click here.

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