GREENFIELD — Roger Dotterweich’s friends describe him as an artist. He’s many other things, too, they say — careful, handy, patient — but it’s the artwork that really takes their breath away.
One of Dotterweich’s drawings is hanging on the wall at Shares Inc. in Greenfield. It’s a simple pencil sketch on a piece of poster board, showing two sets of hands clasped together, drawn with such perfect pen-strokes it rivals the work of any professional.
Dotterweich said the drawing — the hands stretching out to hold and help others — represents what Shares Inc. is to people with disabilities, like him. The Greenfield organization helps connect those with disabilities with jobs in the community, whether in connection with another local business or inside the Shares warehouse on State Street.
Once a year, Shares opens its doors to all Hancock County residents so that community members can come in and learn about the facility and recognize the hard work people with disabilities do there each day.
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Hundreds attended the organization’s annual open house Tuesday, which was conducted in conjunction with the statewide celebration of Disabilities Awareness Month in March. This year’s theme for Disabilities Awareness Month is inclusion, something Shares strives for each day, service coordinator Meredith Davis said.
At Shares, people are encouraged to work within their abilities while learning the social and academic skills they’ll utilize in the community, Davis said. Every day a person visits Shares, they earn money, learn to cook, socialize and take trips with their friends, she said. They form relationships with local business owners and community members, all while shattering stereotypes and dismissing labels, she said.
Shares employees range in age from 18 to 80, Davis said. They come in each morning, punch a time clock like anyone else and work from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. accomplishing different tasks, mostly simple factory work, based on their abilities.
Dotterweich assembles shelving units in a workshop at the Shares warehouse that will be shipped to different department stores across the country. He was recognized Tuesday for being one of the hardest working Shares employees of the year.
Some find work outside the Shares facility, like Zach Hanselman, who works at a Walgreens in Indianapolis and at Brookville Road Community Church in New Palestine. Hanselman was named the Shares Community Employee of the Year and told a cheering crowd that he likes working the two jobs because he’s able to help more people.
Having people with disabilities in the workforce encourages inclusion, said Alfonso Andolz, Shares’ director of community employment, because business owners and peers see that people with disabilities can do a lot more than what some assume.
Last year, Shares placed 57 people with disabilities into jobs in Central Indiana, and each takes great pride in the work they do, Andolz said.
John Edwards’ son has been working for Shares for upwards of 30 years. Edwards’ son, who is also named John, has autism, and Shares connects him with people who are respectful and places where he can find friendship.
“This is the best thing that has ever happened to him,” Edwards said.