Work Opportunities helps volunteer live independently

  • Tue Apr 10th, 2012 6:56pm

<b>FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS | </b>By Mina Williams Herald writer

LYNNWOOD — Two times a week Michael Farrar gets on a DART bus in Everett headed for the Lynnwood Police Department.

Once at his destination he reports at the front desk, on time and ready for work. He gets started on his assignment – shredding papers for the department during his two-hour stint as a volunteer every Monday and Wednesday.

The fact that Farrar volunteers his time is remarkable. What makes him extraordinary is the fact that the 65-year-old, who lives in a group home, is a person with multiple disabilities including cognitive, learning and developmental disabilities.

Simply getting to Lynnwood poses a physical challenge that many would find insurmountable.

Farrar comes to Lynnwood through Work Opportunities’ community access program. The nonprofit concentrates on helping people with disabilities transition into independent living.

Most days Farrar begins his work with stacks of documents from the police department’s old archive. He consciously works his way through the papers, precisely feeding sheets through the shredder. Because of the sensitive and sometimes classified nature of the documents, they require being destroyed before recycling.

Farrar proudly wears his volunteer Explorer badge on his department-issued shirt. He has worked with the Lynnwood Police Department for three years.

“I live here and I like to help,” Farrar said. “I like to be here around the officers and wear a uniform. There is a lot I have to remember. I need help changing the bag out.”

Lynnwood police cadet Deryck Hartford helps Farrar with that task.

“He sure does his job,” Hartford said. “What he does may seem small, but it helps keep the department running and helps the clerks.”

“Michael considers himself as a police officer and part of the team,” said Jovan Bishop, a community support specialist with Lynnwood-based Work Opportunities.

Work Opportunities provides job placement and vocational services for the disabled in Snohomish, King and Whatcom counties. It was started in 1963 by a group of parents who were concerned what their children would do once they graduated from the Edmonds School District’s then-newly developed special education program.

The organization helps people with disabilities make the transition from being dependent on others to contributing in the community by finding jobs, some paid and some volunteer.

The group’s focus on work is not by accident, Bishop said. Work broadens Work Opportunities customers’ social network and teaches transferable skills.

‘Dreams: A Celebration of Abilities’

WHAT: Work Opportunities dinner and auction, celebrating 49 years of service for persons with disabilities

WHEN: 5:30-9:30 p.m. June 21

WHERE: Lynnwood Convention Center, 3711 196th St. SW, Lynnwood

MORE INFO: www.workopportunities.org or 425-778-2156