UCARE introduces “Integrate for Good”

Myrin Library, where Integrate for Good workshops take place, Courtesy of Ursinus website

Shelsea Deravil shderavil@ursinus.edu

In Fall 2019, UCARE began a collaboration with Integrate for Good (IFG), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to strengthen local Pennsylvanian communities by expanding opportunities to people with disabilities, so they can contribute their time and talents to volunteerism and the greater society.

In the past, IFG has collaborated with Ursinus’ Best Buddies and Hillel. Its collaboration with UCARE will continue those efforts. Both organizations hope to become long-term partners.

Katie Turek, associate director of UCARE at Ursinus, is thrilled to be working with IFG. She sees this as another opportunity for Ursinus students, especially Bonner and Scholar fellows, to get involved in community service. “It is beneficial, local [on campus], and accessible, for them to do volunteerism. Same way for the organization,” said Turek. Ursinus’ Myrin Library has been one of the main local sites for IFG to set up their workshop every Monday afternoon, an opportunity for which IFG is grateful.

Bev Weinberg, founder and executive director of IFG, believes that the organization has the potential to become largely successful as well as to be an outlet for many of its volunteers—patients with disabilities—to be better equipped and integrated into society more. “[I’m often asked] why there is a need for Integrate for Good in our community; tons of nonprofit organizations ,” Weinberg said, “but there is a specific need for [it]…to capture the non-recognized talent of people of all abilities.”

Weinberg explained bringing people into IFG —whether they have a disability or not, and regardless of race, gender, religion, etc.— helps them interact and find commonalities with one another. More importantly, it breaks down common stereotypes and barriers faced by people with disabilities. Coming together in settings like this with volunteerism as the main tool allows volunteers to broaden their perspective about each other.

The organization’s volunteerism centers on making sleeping mats. Originating from the Sleeping Mat Project, Weinberg sees the mats as the vehicle to bring diverse people together. Weinberg, who is also an occupational therapist, finds therapeutic value in making the mats and in the weaving process itself, which she says could be very calming for the volunteers, especially those with anxiety.

Plastic bags are collected, cut into three or more pieces (with the center cut also) creating loops with one of their ends being tied to another and so forth, resulting in a large “plarn” (plastic yarn). The plarn is then unrolled and woven through modified looms. The finished mats are then sent to other local outreach agencies such as “Angels in Motion” and the Norristown Police Dept. From there the mats are distributed to homeless shelters and centers.

Jackie Lloyd and Marisa Clugston, clients of IFG and patients at Peaceful Living, an agency that IFG supports, spoke on the current progress of the organization. “We wish there were more volunteers, people to chime in,” said Lloyd. “But what we do stems from the heart, and one day, hopefully, we’ll make this a bigger community to help others…make others notice the good deed of Integrate for Goods.” Clugston also agreed. “If there’s a will, there’s a way,” Clugston said. IFG celebrated one year of being an organization this past January.