Helena Industries, which serves hundreds of people with disabilities, announced it will close its doors next week.
For Karri Jones, Helena Industries is more than just her place of employment. It’s where she met her husband, many of her friends, and found a sense of accomplishment. That's why she is heartbroken that after 10 years of service and without warning, she was informed she no longer has a job.
"We don't know what we're going to do. Where are these clients going to go?” said Jones.
Helena Industries provides career development services and workforce programs for people who are developmentally disabled. Employees work with textiles, wood products, janitorial services, recycling, and at the company's thrift shop. The non-profit's website says it serves more than 900 people with disabilities each year. However, next Friday, April 13, all of that will be gone.
"This closure has had a big effect on me because I don't know where I’m going to find a job,” said Jones.
Drastic state budget cuts have negatively affected programs like those provided by Helena Industries. The Department of Health and Human Services is ending contracts and reducing rates for such providers. The severance letter said vocational jobs coaching and training programs rates have drastically been cut; therefore, they cannot support both the debt load and the remaining programs.
"As soon as I heard it, my mind just shut off. I had to walk out," said Kamron Anderson, a Vocational Aid at Helena Industries.
They told Karri to look for work at Westmont, another local non-profit that helps people with disabilities. However, it is also partially funded by DHHS, so it could be facing significant budget cuts as well.
"It’s going to be really hard to feel good about ourselves because we're not able to do that anymore," said Jones.
Anderson says change, especially something as drastic as job loss, can be incredibly difficult for many of Helena Industries’ clients. The non-profit's acting CEO, Barb Walsh , has yet to get back to any of KFBB’s request for comment to see if any transitional care will be provided.