Nearly a decade ago, the Director of the Society for Handicapped Citizens (SHC) the Arc of Medina County, Melanie Kasten-Krause, and the Superintendent of the Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD), Annette Davis-Kramp, first dreamed of the opportunity to provide retail employment and vocational training for individuals with disabilities. Though employment opportunities existed across the county, there was never an opportunity for individuals with disabilities to obtain retail experience. That is, until roughly a year ago, when Medina Made opened in December of 2015.
“Medina Made is a true definition of a community partnership,” explains Paula Majoros, Director of Adult Services at the Board of DD. “Community and several agencies are bringing awareness to the importance of providing equal employment opportunities, and our workers have the opportunity to give back by learning work skills that can eventually help them work in and be productive members of community. Local artists and vendors are provided a storefront presence, which contributes to the local economy and benefits consumers by providing unique one-of-a-kind handmade items. Everybody works together to build up support, and everybody wins.”
Roughly 90 vendors consign their products to the store, and the proceeds benefit the many programs offered through the Society for Handicapped Citizens. Sandi Sammon, Director of Development and Communication for SHC, explains that there is nothing like Medina Made in the county. The storefront employs one full time manager, Rhonda McCall, and relies on a large rotating staff that is trained in-store.
“The County Board of DD rented space in 2015, and there was an opportunity to invoke that vision of that community-driven retail store next door,” says Sammon. “When Medina Made opened, it was able to connect agencies more to their community, and the community has responded with overwhelming positivity. We get a lot of return customers, because people are very excited about what we do.”
Though the customers have the opportunity to shop local, buy unique handmade items, and support a good cause in a single trip, the staff and artists represented in Medina Made also benefit greatly.
“For all vendors that are part of the store, one of the things that we ask is that they provide something that gives back to store,” explains Pam Hunt, Adult Services Manager at the Board. “It’s a co-op in nature. Many vendors will offer an opportunity for an individual with disabilities to work with them, assist with mock interviews, offer workshops, or any number of creative ways to get involved and continue to build that partnership.”
Monthly workshops are open to the community at Medina Made’s storefront. Though their item pricepoints fall well in the realm of gifting, there is something special about handmaking gifts. This month, customers can attend a Ukrainian egg ornament-making class November 19 at 10:30 a.m., and for a low-cost they can assemble a one-of-a-kind gift.
“There is always something new to see or do here,” says Manager McCall. “The artists are all local, and some are professional artists, and some of our goods are produced by our team here. Everything we do goes toward helping individuals live, learn, earn, and play in their community. Our staff takes great pride in their work, and they should. We are a lovely little gift shop filled with locally-made goods, and I know you will find the perfect gift this holiday season here. We can’t wait to meet you!”
Medina Made is located at 2736 Medina Rd. For more information on hours and workshops, visit MedinaMade.org.