TRAVERSE CITY — Nick Lonsdale spent more than three years trying to find a job that fit him.
It wasn’t easy. Lonsdale, 27, has cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair, so job options are limited. Most required too much mobility, and few offered social opportunities.
In 2010 Lonsdale picked up a part-time job at Paperworks Studio, a Traverse City paper-making and card-producing company that employs more than 20 disadvantaged, disabled people. He works on quality control and handles some public relations duties — speaking in the community about Paperworks’ specialty recycled cards.
The new job came with a new work family, with whom Lonsdale found acceptance, friends and confidence.
“These life skills for him are extremely beneficial to his well being,” said Lonsdale’s mother, Judy Manners. “Being able to accomplish all those things and going to workplace where he’s accepted, he can contribute and have a wonderful, beautiful outcome that has given him a sense of quality of life that you can’t put a price on.”
But an air of uncertainty surrounds Paperworks and its employees. Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan, Inc. runs the program but plans to cut ties. Paperworks’ supporters are hopeful they’ll survive, but the future is murky.
Goodwill is in talks with Grand Traverse Industries, a business that provides training and employment to people with disabilities, about taking over Paperworks’ operation.
If a deal with GTI doesn’t come to fruition, community members pledged to support the program, said Terry Berden, who chairs Paperworks’ advisory board and is a member of Goodwill’s board of directors.
Other members of the Paperworks family are torn between optimism and a nagging fear the program will fold.
Goodwill officials already asked Paperworks employees whether they would be interested in another job at Goodwill, some parents said.