Shredding barriers to employment for those living with disabilities

Beyond26, which connects job seekers living with disabilities with employment opportunities, is expanding to Grand Haven.

The nonprofit has launched a second paper-shredding program in Grand Haven at Covenant Life Church, 101 Columbus Ave. The paper-shredding operation provides vocational training to those without work experience and long-term employment for those who need a high level of occupational accommodation.

“In addition to the training and work experience, our paper-shredding program provides a place where job seekers with disabilities can connect with others and contribute to their community,” says Dirk Bakhuyzen, executive director of Beyond26.

The Lakeshore program

Grand Haven residents Marie Dukes, Merri Seaver, and Lyn VanTol spearheaded the effort to bring the paper-shredding program to the Lakeshore after Marie’s daughter, Maddie, participated in a job-seeker interview with Beyond26.

All three women have daughters with disabilities who are the nonprofit’s first three employees. VanTol, who works as the director of Family Ministries at Covenant Life Church, helped secure the donation of space.

“The Covenant Life Church family has embraced our partnership with Beyond26 in every way. The first three employees are active members of our church and Regatta Club,” VanTol said. “They are very well known and loved. Once our congregation learned that they were involved in this endeavor, volunteers eagerly signed up. We are truly blessed to have our space used in such a wonderful way for the Lakeshore community.”

The Beyond26 paper-shredding program accepts drop-offs on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. A suggested donation of $10 per standard banker’s box of paper is recommended. Proceeds from the Beyond26 paper-shredding program help support the organization’s customized employment services that match job seekers with employment based on their skill set and situation.

Providing ongoing services

Beyond26 provides pre-employment services that address any job readiness concerns. Then, once a client is matched with the company, Beyond26 provides ongoing follow-up and support services.

“The age 26 is a critical time for developmentally disabled community members because it is the age when Michigan’s state-supported education system ends, leaving families and caregivers struggling to find support and structure for their adult child after they finish school,” Bakhuyzen says. 

Beyond26 has operated its Grand Rapids paper-shredding program, which employs 15 individuals, at 1505 Steele Ave. SW since 2019.

The faith-based nonprofit launched in 2018 with a mission to find jobs and volunteer opportunities for individuals with disabilities.

Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.