Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Yankees HOPE Week: Prospector Theater

Here is the press release from the New York Yankees:

Across America, more than 57 million adults have some form of disability, and 80 percent of those individuals are unemployed. Valerie Jensen grew up with a sister who has Down Syndrome, and has seen first-hand how difficult everyday tasks and activities can be for individuals with disabilities, especially finding a fulfilling job. She recognizes that many who have disabilities face an internal struggle to feel as if they have a purpose in life.

One afternoon, Jensen was driving in Ridgefield, Conn., when she saw an old, vacant former theater that was going to be demolished. She immediately had a vision—to transform the building into a unique movie theater, staffed primarily by individuals with disabilities. Over the course of the next several months, she made her vision a reality, with The Prospector Theater opening to the public in November 2014.

At The Prospector Theater, staff members are referred to as “prospects,” as a way to make them feel inspired to realize their own potential and give them the necessary training to advance to other jobs using their skills developed at the theater. In the 10 months since its grand opening, the staff of The Prospector Theater has grown to over 100 people, with no signs of slowing down. As Jensen put it, “we really didn’t need more trips to the pond. We really didn’t need more trips to the zoo. We just needed meaningful employment.”

In many ways, The Prospector Theater is like a traditional theater—visitors purchase their tickets just inside the main entrance and can stop at one of two concession stands before going to see a popular new release. It has four theaters, ranging in capacity from 16-167 people, with the smallest theater designed especially for people with sensory issues who may not enjoy movies in larger settings. Each of the four theaters has handicap seating, along with fixed chairs, so friends and families are able to watch movies together. All of the theaters are also equipped with technology to aid those who are hearing and/or visually impaired, offering closed-captioning glasses and high-quality headphones.
“The answer to the unemployment epidemic among adults with disabilities is in our own backyard, on every Main Street in America. Small businesses are missing out on a huge resource that lies in the incredible talent pool of the 57 million talented Americans with disabilities, who are willing, competent, and able to work,” says Valerie Jensen.

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Sorry for the Capatcha... Blame the Russians :)