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MUSCATINE, Iowa — Shredded paper will soon help support the bottom line at Crossroads Inc., which runs a workshop in Muscatine for people with disabilities and offers them additional services.

Brandon Buster, sales manager at Crossroads Inc., told the Muscatine Rotary Club Monday that his agency recently received a grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to purchase a document shredding machine. For a fee, Crossroads clients will shred documents for businesses and agencies that require the service. Once the shredding operation is accredited, it’ll be Muscatine County’s sole accredited document shredding site, Buster said.

The move, expected by Sunday, Dec. 1, is in response to recent state funding cutbacks for Iowa’s 20 or so sheltered workshops, places where people with developmental disabilities work together under supervision. That’s the result of new laws going into effect next year to regionalize the delivery of mental health services as well as those services provided to people with developmental disabilities.

“Our goal is to become self-sufficient,” Buster said, “and quite frankly we aren’t there.”

Buster said the non-profit Crossroads, at 1424 Houser St., is also “looking to identify other sources of demand” for the work that Crossroads clients can complete, including packaging, small machine operations, labeling and industrial sewing. “We’re looking for things that are not being done in the community,” he said.

Crossroads is also bringing on new partners as it seeks to further develop the local workforce. The American Association of Retired Persons is partnering with Crossroads to offer the Senior Community Service Employment Program, which seeks to give people ages 55 and older the skills they need to find and sustain employment. “There are people who need help, who don’t have the skills right now to go out and get a job,” Buster said, “and we have more work than clients.”

Buster, who studied mathematics and economics in college, does time studies to help Crossroads set pay levels for the piece work that the 75 or so Crossroads clients perform each day. Once he learned that the prevailing wage in Muscatine County is about $9.25 per hour, he figures out how much clients should be paid for each piece of work. If they work efficiently, he said, clients can expect to be paid $9.25 per hour.

“They get a weekly paycheck and they gain job skills,” he said. “That’s important for our clients,” many of whom “can never get out into the community to seek employment.”

Businesses that contract for work performed by Crossroads clients include HNI Corp., Bandag, Kent Corp. and Musco Lighting. Crossroads is in talks with Monsanto and Carver Pump, he said, because “we’re always looking to diversify.”

One other obstacle the agency faces mirrors a challenge faced by many other nonprofits, businesses, local agencies and governments — an aging workforce.

“The median age of our clients is probably in the mid-50s. Some are starting to age, and some of their functionality is starting to decrease,” Buster said. “We are looking to get some younger folks involved in the program.

Learn more by visiting www.crossroadsmuscatine.org or by calling 563-263-2545.

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