Creating employment and providing work supports was our primary objective when ABLE, Inc. purchased the T-Rex Plaza in 2019.
In addition to how tough it is to find jobs or create jobs for people with disabilities, several current public policy measures are proposed that will shrink existing employment opportunities. New guidelines introduced by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) pose new challenges as they would like to see more jobs that integrate people into the community versus jobs isolated in large back rooms occupied by dozens of disabled workers and their support staff. ABLE believes these are excellent goals but how do we comply?
The Plaza is key to our ability to meet these new requirements. Take a look at our vision:
Modifications underway at the Plaza afford more space to expand the square footage of work sites to keep people working. ABLE will be able to provide jobs with supports in multiple locations and in a variety of ways. This provides a wealth of opportunity to create community integrated jobs, new businesses and entrepreneurship opportunities for people with disabilities.
Rather than one Thrift Store, ABLE is creating many smaller establishments in response to our donation stream. This includes a children’s store, Kid Thrift, ABLE Used Furniture and our vintage store, Decades. Space in separate suites or kiosks will create additional options for work. These changes bring needed, affordable goods to the community while providing meaningful jobs where workers can build relationships with the public. Approximately 97% of the items are donated. The remainder is purchased at auctions and close out sales. Prices are set based on the tolerance of customers and comparisons with other similar thrift stores in the region. Items are sorted and some clothing and other fabric is recycled into products manufactured at ABLE’s Repeat Outlet store in Bowman. The Repeat Outlet also produces loomed rugs and other sewn articles which are also sold at Decades in the Plaza. ABLE has also expanded job opportunities in the newly acquired on-site laundry and expanded shredding services. Revenues generated from the stores support overall operations of ABLE enhancing the lives of those they serve.
To date the west parking lot has been replaced providing tenants, delivery trucks and others with better access to the Plaza. Some repairs have been made to the roof and other operating systems, including the addition of a new security system.
Starting this spring the Plaza will get an exterior facelift which will include replacement of the entrance, enclosure of the roof soffits to control the birds nesting, replacement of sidewalks and additional parking lot improvements. New doors will be installed at the mall entrance where modifications will allow for more turning space inside the entrance vestibule for persons with disabilities. Further supporting persons with disabilities, two new universal restrooms/adult changing stations will be completed by the end of the year.
More needs to be done and ABLE is working hard to secure grant and other funding to add a drive through drop off for the Thrift Store, renovate space in the south section of the Mall to relocate the current ABLE Thrift Store and other interior improvements to the Plaza. We invite the community to stop up and support our tenants, our work sites and celebrate the improvements we are making.