LAFAYETTE, La. — Every year during Mardi Gras, thousands of pounds of Mardi Gras beads are thrown during parades and different activities, but what do you do with them once you get home? Lionel Simon, an employee at ARC of Acadiana, encourages people to donate them, "Man, bring 'em here so y'all can just help support us and we can get some money. You know, Christmas is coming and all that, we need the extra change."
Simon has intellectual disabilities and only has full use of his right arm and leg. "I do what most people do. I do more than what most people do in a week, than most people do all month because I have to use one hand and one leg to get it done," explains Simon with a wide smile on his face.
He's part of a special program at LARC that employs people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The employees clean and sort donated Mardi Gras beads and package them for resale.
"Our goal is to provide social integration to the clients that we serve as well as job opportunities, job training. That's what these clients are doing right now, they're participating in our employment and support program," explains Dana Gradney, the Program Manager at ARC of Acadiana in Lafayette.
For employees like Hannah Fackler, it's more than just a job. It's a way for her to lead a more fulfilling life.
"I like it better over here than the job I had in the community. Because of my disability, I got bullied over there and over here I don't," she says. For Lionel Simon, he says that the job has "taught me responsibility and how to focus on the things that are most important in my life."
LARC has a similar program at Acadian Village. The non-profit's mission is to support individuals with disabilities in reaching their goals through participation in community engagement and education, while promoting employment opportunities. One of those opportunities is sorting, cleaning, and selling beads that have been donated.
The program employs nearly a dozen people who otherwise wouldn't be able to work in the community. LARC Job Development Manager Carthy Guillet says, "This gives them a paycheck, this enables them to pay rent, this lets them go to any movies and bowling and things like that. Just like you and I, our extra money, we like to do fun things with it and it makes them feel just like everybody else."
For drop-off locations you can go LARC's website or drop-off at any Goodwill site.
You can drop off at all ARC locations or at their drop boxes at various area businesses, which can be found on ARC of Acadiana's website.
The Acadiana Humane Society is also accepting donations for next years Krewe Des Chiens dog parade. You can find more info by clicking HERE.