For those who are part of Service Enterprises, Inc. (SEI) the name says it all.

During the past 50 years, SEI has served the community in a variety of ways, as it works with dozens of individuals with disabilities, as well as with local businesses and the community as a whole.

What began 50 years ago as a day activity center (DAC) in Redwood County has grown. Now SEI is an accredited program through CARF International.

According to Betty Stancer, SEI business administrator, the local program goes through an accrediting review every three years to ensure it is meeting the needs of those with developmental disabilities that promote independence in a healthy and safe environment. The accreditation allows SEI to provide opportunities that other similar entities are not able to, which means a greater level of service for its clients.

One of the roles of SEI is to find job placement opportunities for those clients, and over the years SEI has been able to work with many businesses and organizations in the Redwood Falls and Marshall areas.

According to Karin Ramey, SEI program administrator, and Rachael Buyck, employment coordinator, SEI works with various businesses, most recently adding Schult Homes as a client.

According to Ramey, the local manufacturing plant has opened its doors to local employees served through SEI who are able to perform tasks that the company’s other employees do not always have time to complete.

The best part, added, Stancer, is that the guys who are working there get to wear hard hats. That, she added, is a big deal for them.

Buyck said there have been long-time relationships in the community, adding in her role she interacts with the clients and those who have hired them. The goal is to provide employment for clients as close to home as is possible. That can mean making trips to communities like Cottonwood and Sanborn and everywhere in between to ensure good relationships continue.

Through SEI, clients also receive training that helps to prepare them for the working world, and in some cases the clients begin their employment working for one of SEI’s own enterprises, including its Morgan Brand Popcorn and Jumpy Monkey™ coffee. 

Ramey said SEI recently opted to end one of those enterprises. After more than 35 years of service to the area, Merry Maids of Redwood Falls opted to close this past June.

“People here want to work,” said Ramey, adding those at SEI firmly believe that the opportunity to work not only benefits the clients but those businesses where they are employed and the community as a whole.

After all, those who work are getting a paycheck, and those dollars are being spent in other community businesses.

There are 77 clients who are currently being served through SEI, including more than 60 in Redwood Falls, said Ramey.

In times when the business climate is facing labor shortages, SEI offers an opportunity to help fill in some of those gaps for a community.

Of course, there can be challenges for SEI as it serves its clients, especially in the areas of housing and transportation. Ramey said entities like United Community Action Partnership and its transit system, including the new Green Route, have been a big help.

All of that is providing a greater sense of independence for the people SEI serves.

Ramey said SEI is led by a board of directors, and she said that group is a huge part of the success of what is being offered through SEI. She added there are currently openings for others who would like to serve in that capacity.

Funding is also a challenge for SEI, as it needs to find additional sources of dollars to help continue its work in the region. That means hosting more fundraising events and working at the state and federal level to find ways to secure additional support.

Those who want to learn more about SEI are encouraged to visit service-enterprises.org.

– Photo courtesy of SEI, Inc.