Goodwill Disability Services Expands Amid Pandemic

Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida

Submitted By Debra Donatto

With safety concerns mounting as the number of reported positive cases of COVID continue to climb, Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida (SWFL) is one of the few non-profit organizations in Florida still hosting full-day training programs for adults with disabilities.

In April, Goodwill’s Pathways to Opportunity (PTO) went virtual and moved 50 of the 80 participants onto a distance learning experience they call, PTO-2-GO. Using Chromebooks, Google Classroom and Zoom to connect, instructors were able to continue working on daily goals and keep the participants connected, helping them acquire the needed skills to lead more independent lives.

When participants were able to come back to campus, only 12 could be accommodated due to space limitations with social distancing. Thanks to the United Way and a few generous teams, PTO-2-GO instructors now have a new virtual learning instruction space allowing more space on campus to bring back additional PTO participants.

In the new cubicle spaces, up to four PTO-2-GO instructors can simultaneously use the virtual learning classroom to teach online classes.

“A special thanks to the United Way “;Gifts-in-Kind”; program and Craig Norling who provided the donated cubicle workstations; Jonathan James and the team at Workspaces provided the design and labor to assemble the cubicles, and our own Goodwill IT team who got the instructors up and running in their new spaces,” states Jessica Tursi, PTO Program Manager.

Daily, nearly 50 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities log in for a full day of virtual class. PTO-2-GO participants have a variety of guest speakers in their classes from Special Olympics, to the Lee County Library system. They have also partnered with the Looking Glass Fort Myers, a local interactive museum, to provide safe community involvement through virtual outings.

“We have really enjoyed the PTO-2-GO option for being able to continue to connect with their teachers and classmates during this time of COVID-19. We appreciate the Chromebooks that have been provided to make the process easier as well,” remarked a PTO parents who wishes not to be identified.

Program staff have seen participants flourish in this new environment. Participants who would struggle with communication, have found this method of programming more comfortable and are now communicating verbally with more confidence.

ABOUT GOODWILL INDUUSTRIES

Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida is a nonprofit organization committed to serving people with disabilities and disadvantages by providing life-changing opportunities toward independence. For more information about Goodwill SWFL, visit www.goodwillswfl.org.

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