by John Koski
Karl DeMeuse is a quintessential multi-tasker. Two days a week he works at Sonny’s Pizzeria, takes a short break and then completes an afternoon shift at Econofoods. They are only three-hour shifts, but it is impressive because Karl has physical and intellectual challenges. In addition, he mows lawns and creates needlework coasters through his one-person business Kd Coasters.
“I get a real sense of pride being able to do so many things,” he said. “I like to push myself – and I like to make money.”
Karl has been assisted in finding employment, continues to learn daily living skills and socializes with old and new friends at Turning Point DC, Sturgeon Bay.
The relatively young organization traces its roots to 2017 when three professionals – Judy Dobbins, Tim Beck and Sarraea Fehl – with more than 40 years of combined experience in the field of developmental disabilities came to a consensus that individuals and families coping with challenges needed more options within the community and decided to develop a program with services tailored to address the unique needs of this population and their families.
In collaboration with the Boys & Girls Club, where Turning Point DC meets from 8:30 am to 1:30 pm weekdays, clients are able to articulate their needs and goals in a family like environment and learn skills that will lead to meaningful employment. The organization provides daily living skills, supported employment, day services, employment services and in-home support.
“My passion has always been fighting for the underdog,” said Beck, who serves as the organization’s operations manager. “Throughout their lives, our clients have been treated differently because of their limitations. Most of them have been bullied and even sexually abused.
“What drives me,” he continued, “is knowing that we can’t fix the past but we can help determine the future and give our clients something to look forward to and to provide them with the skills they need to go out and be successful. When I look at our clients I don’t see their limitations, I see a living being and it’s that living being that will make a difference in this world.”
In addition to Econofoods and Sonny’s Pizzeria, Turning Point DC has partnered with and found employment for clients at Tractor Supply, Pick ‘n Save, Culver’s, Dunham’s Sporting Goods, Boys & Girls Club, Anna’s Healthcare, Younkers and Door County Medical Center Skilled Nursing Facility, among others.
The organization recently started Turning Point Bouncers, a client-run business that rents bounce houses for community festivals, birthdays parties and other events. The company made its inaugural appearance at Schopf’s Dairy View Country Store as part of Carlsville Day, July 28.
“With Turning Point DC, we are starting an inclusion revolution in Door and Kewaunee counties,” said Dobbins, who serves as executive director. “Our clients don’t want to be defined by what they can’t do, but by what they can do.
“Students with special needs receive an abundance of support while in school,” Dobbins noted, “through specialized programs and caring teachers who are well trained in meeting their needs. After graduation, that support is no longer there. Oftentimes, these young adults attempt to find work and become discouraged when they can’t. So, they isolate themselves at home, which can lead to a sense of hopelessness and depression. We offer a place where clients with special needs can go when they graduate from high school to continue the support and encouragement they are used to. Turning Point DC provides a program to prepare them for jobs and offers skills for daily living. We also provide a venue for socialization, friendships and fun.”
“Turning Point DC isn’t only for new graduates,” said Dobbins. “Young adults with special needs that haven’t found work come to us as well. Clients that are a part of Care Wisconsin, Lakeland or IRIS can talk with their care managers and ask to be referred to Turning Point DC. We also offer sponsorships and scholarships. So, no one is turned away.”
“No one is ever too old for Turning Point DC,” client Duryea Johnson said. “For example, I’m a 2010 graduate of Sturgeon Bay High School. At Turning Point DC we learn cooking skills, have visited a laundromat and have Hands-on Mondays where we plan the noon meal, shop for and prep the ingredients and do the actual cooking. Turning Point DC has taught me many new skills, I’ve made lasting friendships, found employment and have served as a job coach.”
In addition, Turning Point DC clients have participated in fun and educational outings, including a tour of the Sturgeon Bay Coast Guard Station, Crossroads at Big Creek, Wisconsin Humane Society – Door County Campus, Nicolet Bank, Sturgeon Bay Fire and Police Departments, Door County Fair, Miller Art Museum, Sturgeon Bay Library, Autumn Lake Woodworking, Apple Valley Lanes and were part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“One of our big goals is to buy a house where our clients can live independently,” Dobbins said. “Each person would have their own room and would share the responsibilities of preparing meals, doing laundry and keeping the house clean.”
“My son Eric loves Turning Point DC,” Cindy Josefson said. “He jumps out of bed in the morning, gets dressed and can’t wait to go there.”
For more information about Turning Point DC, call 920.559.9156 or visit TurningPointDC.com.