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Little Friends: Ken’s Krew is coming to Illinois

Over the past several months, Little Friends has been making a concerted effort to create new programs that offer job opportunities for the neurodiverse, and particularly those on the Autism Spectrum.

Given these efforts, I am excited to share that beginning this summer, Little Friends will become the Chicagoland representative for Ken’s Krew. Founded in 1997, Ken’s Krew provides job placement training and support for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities in a competitive environment targeted at Customer Service positions.

The 27-year-old organization Ken’s Krew is not widely known in the Midwest, as it currently is located primarily on the East Coast, with the closest state where there is activity being Michigan. Founded by two passionate families of young adults with disabilities, their mission was to connect individuals with developmental disabilities with meaningful long-term employment. These families reached out to a friend who also happened to be the co-founder of Home Depot, Mr. Ken Langone.

Upon hearing their story and desire to help their children, Mr. Langone provided a substantial grant and in doing so created an opportunity to pilot an employment program for neurodiverse individuals in South Philadelphia at a Home Depot store. While the door was opened, it was also understood that the program had to become sustainable on its own and infrastructure put in place to create meaningful employment opportunities.

Since this initial investment, over the past 27 years the organization has expanded to nine states and during this time has placed 917 Krew members in employment, mostly with Home Depot.

With intentions of coming to Illinois, Little Friends will be responsible for implementing the Ken’s Krew program, providing support preparing an individual for community employment in a customer service position. We are thrilled to be involved with this opportunity, as the missions of each organization to help individuals gain employment are critically aligned.

To be eligible for a position through Ken’s Krew, the individual must be at least 18 years of age and be diagnosed with a neurodevelopmental disability. A genuine desire to work with family/guardian support is assumed and required as well, and the individual must be able to have access to transportation to and from the workplace.

To become a part of Ken’s Krew, the individual will apply with the request to participate in a five-step assessment process. This assessment is followed by one-on-one job training with a vocational coordinator to ensure a successful match, and the job training typically takes 6-8 weeks to complete to ensure a proper fit, and in the process develop the self-confidence to work in the position.

One might wonder if the program works and if it is sustainable. As of today, the one-year retention rate for individuals placed through this program is 93%, and more than 500 people placed into positions remain working with their employer.

With Ken’s Krew on the horizon, we are excited about another new chapter for employment services at Little Friends and look forward to sharing further details in the weeks/months ahead!