A Luverne, Minnesota, non-profit is giving meaningful employment to dozens of people with developmental disabilities. There's so much demand for their handmade jewelry and other gifts that Rock County Opportunities opened a store.
Chase Lueck, 22, spends his days making jewelry at Rock County Opportunities, Inc.
"My favorite part is the staff," Lueck said.
He's worked here for five months and with each intricate project, Lueck is gaining confidence and independence. And he isn't alone.
The southwest Minnesota non-profit gives more than 50 people with disabilities and related conditions the opportunity to make a living. Many are now experts at hand-making gifts. This past Christmas, demand surged.
"We had people coming in by the droves and we found that we were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, trying to get product out there, get it packaged up in a way that wasn't too chaotic for our shoppers," Bartels said.
To meet demand, they opened up the work floor and added a store to showcase the products. Shoppers can walk around and see clients making the gifts on-site.
When each jewelry piece is sold, 100 percent of the profits goes right back to the artist.
"The clients really do make a fairly decent profit for the amount of time that it takes them to make a piece; the amount of pieces they can put out, they make a pretty good profit of each one of those," Bartels said.
Gifts range from $4 to $30. And when asked what it felt like when his first piece was sold, Lueck says, “awesome."
The store created another position so shoppers can be rung up. Bartels says the non-profit is excited by the momentum.
"We want to just keep growing and I think that is definitely in our realm of possibilities. We will just keep getting more clients and more and more people. And as we do, we will tailor our services to them, their needs, their skills and their likes and we will just grow from there," Bartels said.
The business goes beyond bracelets. Clients also package and sell Buffalo Joe Coffee Beans at the store as well.
For more information on the business, click here