Vocational training

Darien YMCA partners with Abilis to provide job training for adults with disabilities

DARIEN – A new collaboration with the Darien YMCA marks the latest venture in town for Abilis, a Greenwich-based non-profit organization that provides employment opportunities and training for young adults with developmental disabilities in Fairfield County.

A local version of the SEARCH project was launched in January. Now, four interns from the program are stationed at the Darien YMCA, where they explore job opportunities in various departments. The 10-month internship program that encourages local community centers to facilitate career coaching and job training for adults with disabilities.

“Having an organization that is truly accepting of having people with disabilities in its workforce, whether intern or paid, is very meaningful,” said Amy Montimurro, CEO of Abilis. “I’ve been with the organization for 25 years, and it’s a big deal for us.”

The partnership will be the last for Abilis in a series of recent collaborations at Darien. Earlier in February, the organization – which serves more than 800 people with disabilities and their families – recently launched a cafe at Darien Library which is made up of participants in the Abilis program.

The organization has also partnered with developer David Genovese of Baywater Properties to build multi-unit housing for adults in Abilis who want to explore independent living.

The Darien YMCA is the first YMCA in the nation to host a Project SEARCH program, according to Abilis. The program is nationally run and has developed a specialized curriculum in addition to vocational training to provide participants with job skills and prepare them for competitive employment, Montimurro said.

The interns have been working at the YMCA for a few weeks as part of their first rotation, said Jennifer Gardner, CEO of the Darien YMCA. They worked in several departments, including marketing, fitness and maintenance, and preschool.

The program has been especially beneficial for people who want to work with children, Montimurro said.

“The child care component is really huge because there are so many people we support who love working with children and really don’t get the chance,” she said.

Already, interns are getting along well with Darien YMCA staff and receiving “great feedback,” Gardner said.

“It’s a great choice and we’re absolutely thrilled to have them here and to be able to partner with Abilis,” she said. “It’s great to see these young adults thriving here and how thrilled our staff are to have them. It’s really a win-win partnership — yes, we welcome these interns, but we get a lot out of them ourselves.