People with disabilities are active in Thief River Falls, and two recent job placements through Falls Diverse Abilities Corporation are pleasing customers at JCPenney.
DJ Barsness and Isaac Petersen were hired to clean the two-story downtown store, and together they cover morning shifts through the week. Both men catch a ride with Falls DAC in the morning and take the city bus to the DAC after their shift.
Employees for jobs like these are hard to find in this northwest Minnesota city of less than 9,000 people. The county seat, it serves as a regional center for a 30-mile radius, nestled between Grand Forks, N.D. and Bemidji, both an hour or more away.
Falls DAC Executive Director Tammy Haugen said she has seen gains for both of the men, with more confidence to step into new situations, to try new things.
There’s plenty of cleaning, vacuuming and mopping, as the men cover different sections of the store each day. Both are earning minimum wage.
“I like it,” said Barsness. “I take on everything a little bit.” He’s worked on cleaning crews and in-center at Falls DAC. Haugen said he’s very personable and willing to work hard. Without Falls DAC, Barness said he would have had more difficulty finding a job.
In this supported employment situation, Barsness and Petersen receive visits from Falls DAC staff as needed. Sometimes, there are basic supports that others take for granted where some people with disabilities need a little help, Haugen explains. Someone could have a question he doesn’t feel comfortable asking the employer, so Falls DAC helps out.
Petersen has been a go-to person at Falls DAC, willing to do any job that comes up. “Getting my foot in the door at JCPenney could open up other doors for me,” said Peterson. “They really like us there.” Peterson and Barsness have worked the same job before covering dishwashing shifts at a local restaurant.
“The supervisor at JCPenney and the co-workers are pleased to find reliable, responsive employees who are detail oriented,” Haugen said. “They are appreciated.”
Falls DAC also operates a thrift store and performs production work at its facility.