Montgomery County camp helps get youth with intellectual disabilities ready for workforce

The nonprofit has evolved over more than 70 years from a camp to social, educational and vocational programs.
WORCESTER TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- On a quiet 77 acres of Worcester Township, hundreds of young people with disabilities have learned the skills they need to get jobs.

"The idea is the kids are getting hands-on, work experience skills that they wouldn't get otherwise," said Dominique Bernardo, the CEO of Variety - the Children's Charity of the Delaware Valley. It's a nonprofit that has evolved over more than 70 years from a camp to social, educational and vocational programs.

The work includes farm-to-table food prep. Going from a garden to the kitchen.

"The skills that they'll learn while they're here performing these activities in the kitchen are transferable to community employment," said Nick Larcinese, the director of programming.

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Dr. Nahreen Ahmed helped take a community from having the highest COVID-19 rates to the highest vaccine rates.

Even when the pandemic hit and employment opportunities were scarce, Variety put 25 students in the workforce in 2020. Because of the skills they learned at Variety, a lot of them were actually essential workers.

"We knew our guys needed to get back onto campus, we knew they needed to be on-site and socializing. A lot of our young adults and children with disabilities had regressed, so we moved mountains to reopen in July and we have not closed," said Bernardo.

"I really liked helping everyone even though it was really hard work," said Eric Salomon from Blue Bell.

He attended programs at Variety for a decade and is now happily employed. He says he treasured what he learned at camp.

"No matter what intellectual disability people have, we should only use the correct word and that word is respect," he said.

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