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Love What You Do and Where You Live!

Alona Wood

Envision a career where you have the opportunity to put your talents and abilities to work, experience professional growth, and deliver services with a life changing impact on the lives of others. MRC Industries, Inc., (MRC) a Kalamazoo-based non-profit, delivers this reality every day.

Individuals served by MRC include those with developmental or intellectual disabilities, traumatic brain injuries, mental illness, and those with physical disabilities in conjunction with developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Alona Wood, a graduate of Western Michigan University (WMU) found her ideal career at MRC. She started her journey first as a Community Support Worker and soon became a Program Coordinator who worked on the vocational aspect of those served and was often an advocate working with individuals on their goals. Now, as an Organizational Employment Unit Manager, she oversees a staff that helps ensure individuals with disabilities are put to work.

"I love working with our individuals served!" Wood said. "It brings me great joy every day to help our individuals succeed by earning a paycheck and teaching them the skills that they will need to one day earn a position out in our community."
A transplant from Monroe, Wood earned several academic scholarships to WMU and chose to stay here.

"I want to stay in Kalamazoo because I love this city," Wood said. "There are so many opportunities available to myself and my child, such as the Kalamazoo Promise, that I just would not be able to take advantage of had I moved back to my hometown."

With 66 employees, MRC that serves up to 700 people. Wood said she loves working with her team which is dedicated to fulfilling the MRC mission.

That mission is to encourage and support individuals living with a disability to achieve their fullest potential through employment, skill-building, and active community involvement.

"I knew that I wanted to be a leader at this company while still being able to fulfill our mission and provide services for individuals," Wood said.

"I manage several ongoing contract jobs and ensure that our individuals served are put to work on these jobs, which build their employability skills and satisfy the needs of our customers. Our unit provides services to nearly 150 individuals with disabilities."

MRC offers three major programs each focusing on managing either employment opportunities, skill building, or other services along with using resources that support participants.

The McKercher program focuses on individuals living with developmental or intellectual disabilities or traumatic brain injury. It includes the ArtWorks program which serves as an extension of that program located downtown on the mall and includes a retail store, gallery, and working studio. Featured monthly during Art Hop, work of this program is shown and can be purchased with part of the proceeds going back to the individuals and helps fund the program.

The Pathways program is a psychosocial rehabilitation clubhouse that offers support to adults living with severe and persistent mental illness. This program is meant to empower individuals to further their education and reach their employment goals in their community.

The third program, BridgeWays, provides case management and support services for individuals who are diagnosed with mental illness and co-occurring disorders helping them realize their goals and dreams.

The framework of these programs and services are focused on the philosophy of the organization that every person is unique, valued, and entitled to be treated with respect and dignity, placing the focus and emphasis on individuals' abilities, not their disabilities.

When not at work, Wood can be found enjoying what she refers to as a great place to live, diverse and filled with social attractions and educational opportunities. She lives near her daughter's school, Arcadia Elementary, which she praises as a diverse, loving environment where the staff is dedicated to the children.

"I have lived the best years of my life here in Kalamazoo, and look forward to the future here as I raise my family and work towards my passions," Wood said.

Wood went on to explain that she keeps connected to the community by staying active in her daughter's school PTO and participating in events organized by Stones Church where she and her family attend.

Be sure to make MRC's artWorks Gallery, located on the Kalamazoo Mall at 330 South Burdick, one of your Art Hop stops on Friday, April 10!

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