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MRCI on the move

Above: Sarah Murray and Chris McCarty work on a puzzle with a group from MRCI at U.S. Bank in Fairmont. Individuals in MRCI’s day program utilize different spaces at area businesses and organizations for activities.

FAIRMONT– MRCI in Fairmont has undergone a number of changes over the past year and a half. While the organization no longer has a physical building here, individuals have been very busy out and about in the community.

MRCI’s primary goal is to find employment for people with disabilities or disadvantages. It’s based in Mankato with several locations. MRCI serves 72 clients locally.

Tami Reuter, business and marketing officer for MRCI, said that closing the Fairmont building was a very much planned thing that happened with other sites as well.

“We had a strategic plan prior to Covid to be a completely community-integrated organization in all of our services,” Reuter said.

She said Covid-19 actually gave them an opportunity to elevate that.

“When we realized it would be a couple of months, and not just a couple of day, we used that time to re-build the organization,” Reuter said.

They shared their vision, to be 100 percent community-based, with families, guardians, clients and business partners in early summer 2020. Then they started making plans.

“We’ve had a great successes with our new programming. One of the highlights is our employment programming,” Reuter said.

She said they have individuals who are competitively employed and they no longer use their building as a bus stop, but shuttle individuals directly to their employment site.

“They’re no longer employed by MRCI, they’re employed at that employer,” Reuter explained.

She said they’re on the payroll there, involved in holiday parties and wear a company uniform if applicable.

“We’re excited about what that has meant for everyone and the job opportunities that have come,” she said.

Some of the many local businesses that employ people associated with MRCI include Fareway, Fairmont Foods, Devenish Nutrition and the Pizza Ranch.

Reuter explained that not everyone was ready for a completive job so they’ve also built in training programs along the way to ensure that no one is left behind.

For those who are not yet ready to work or work isn’t a viable option, Reuter said they have a community-based day program.

“It’s a way for them to engage in meaningful activities with and for our community,” she said.

If you see a white mini van roaming around , Reuter said it will be filled with individuals going to an activity around the community.

“Each mini van has four clients being served and one staff member,” she said.

She did individuals pick what they’d like to do for the day which may look like learning something at the historical society, volunteering with the humane society or Heaven’s Table, or playing a game or doing a craft somewhere in town.

MRCI utilizes space inside the Southern Minnesota Educational Campus, local churches and banks. Reuter said they’ve had great response from and partnerships with these places.

“They spend their weeks no longer confined to a building. A running phrase we use is, ‘have wheels, will travel.’ We’re only bound by how far we can travel to and from everyday,” Reuter said.

Reuter said it’s been a good chance for individuals to share their skills with the community, and also learn from the community as well.

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