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Progress Industries settles into new location

Newton Daily News - 11/15/2018

Nov. 15--After spending several years on the north side of Newton, an organization dedicated to assisting those with intellectual and physical disabilities has settled into its center-of-the-city location.

Progress Industries Foundation, 202 N. Third Ave. W., has overcome funding cuts and adjustments to its new facility to continue to provide services to those who need them.

The original property at 1017 E. Seventh St. N. will be used for corporate affairs while the new location will house the services it provides.

"We're still in our main administrative building on the north side of town. It was just Nov. 1 we moved our community services to this location," Sandy Ham, president of Progress Industries, said. "Our administrative services are still on the north side of town for now. They will be moved to the building next to the library that is being renovated. We'll have two locations in town."

The Newton Daily News previously reported, the 8,400-square-foot building was built in 2000, with 25 parking spaces, a commercial kitchen, three offices, seven large rooms and many restrooms.

The organization has roughly 250 employees serving up to 300 people who require assistance. Due to recent funding cuts, many of those employees had to give up their benefits and their shift hours, and salaries have now changed.

"We've had significant funding cuts from IME, and we've adjusted. Our operating costs are less here now," Ham said. "Our employees have been fabulous, they had to adjust some of their benefits. We've had to make adjustments to staffing patterns and adjustments to our opening wage rate. All of which was very painful but something we had to do to sustain our services."

The building used to host KinderCare daycare whose lease ended May 2015, leaving it vacant until it was sold to Progress Industries in April 2017 for $395,000.

Ham said the reason for the new location was to have a presence within the city of Newton, closer to everyone who may need the services while at the same time competing with other businesses that could take away business from Progress Industries, as well as the need to downsize.

"We needed to downsize. Our building north of town is roughly 43,000 square feet, and we were only using a fraction of that," Ham said. "For our vision of supporting people in the community, it really was not in a good location. We wanted to be somewhere more central to the community."

According to information provided by Melissa Butler, communications director for Progress Industries, the nonprofit organization is meant to provide assistance by means of employment and placement, day habilitation and other residential services.

Kali Klaver, nursing instructor with DMACC, often has her students go to Progress Industries to interact with the clients to get real-world experience.

"Specifically, this building is great. It hasn't really changed anything for us. We still come to Newton, so it's still a good experience for students to see a different side of clinical settings," Klaver said. "This place is very important because as a nurse, you don't realize how many times you encounter people with intellectual disabilities, and sometimes that may be difficult if you've never had that exposure. So this is a great way to expose our students to everything, from high functioning all the way down to non-functioning."

Several program participants and volunteers from First Christian Church were present Wednesday at around noon.

Connie Palmer, one of the volunteers, said the church annually hosts a pie day the week before Thanksgiving for the organization, and the new location will help for exposure.

"It was nice out (at the old location). I told them what I think is nicer about being here is it's more visible," Palmer said. "For new people in town, they didn't get exposed to Progress. Now, they'll ask what that building is and you get to tell them about the group homes and everything."

Contact Orrin Shawl at 641-792-3121 ext. 6533 or oshawl@newtondailynews.com

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(c)2018 the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa)

Visit the Newton Daily News (Newton, Iowa) at www.newtondailynews.com

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