Jennifer Olson – Cardinal Services – Kosciusko by Choice
Wednesday, April 12, 2023
Kosciusko County – A Place of Welcoming
“Kosciusko County to me has really been very welcoming, very open. You can walk into a restaurant and people treat you like you’re family,” said Jennifer Olson, Director of Employment Services at Cardinal Services.
Jenn is originally from the Detroit, Michigan area, and moved to South Bend, Indiana five years ago. Neither area offered the more rural neighborhoods, open land, and friendly atmosphere that Jenn and her family were really craving. When she moved to Leesburg in Kosciusko County, she found the welcoming place she was looking for.
“Kosciusko County is very much a people centered community where everybody takes care of each other and helps each other out,” she explained. “To me, Kosciusko means welcoming. It means hospitality and family.”
The Community of Leesburg
Jenn lives in the community of Leesburg within Kosciusko County, and has thrived in this close-knit small town.
“I love the small-town feel. Everybody is so welcoming. The first week I moved in, I had all of my neighbors come to my door and welcome me.”
Her favorite location in Leesburg is Tippy Creek Winery. At this family-oriented location, you can sit back and enjoy wine or a wine slushie outside in the summertime, or by the fireplace in the winery’s cozy interior during the winter. They offer a variety of events, comedy nights, and live music throughout the year.
Opportunities at Cardinal Services
Jenn works at Cardinal Services, an agency that supports people in the community with intellectual, developmental, or physical disabilities. They help people from infancy to end of life and everyone in between. They operate programs in several counties including Kosciusko, where they were founded nearly 70 years ago and remain based today. Among their programs, Cardinal offers residential programs, day services, and employment services to the people they serve. In her role as Director of Employment Services, Jenn works to help people overcome barriers to find opportunities for employment.
“We advocate for our clients to maybe get reasonable accommodations on the job site and work heavily to create those opportunities that might not always be there,” Jenn explained. She went on to talk about the passion her clients express for their jobs. “They want to be there. They want to do the job. They’re just so passionate about what they do that we just need to give them the opportunities and focus on the abilities rather than the disabilities. You can’t spell disability without ability, so we really need to look at the abilities first.”
Redbird Art Studio
Among Cardinal Services many programs is Redbird Art Studio, which is located in Kosciusko County. The studio allows people to come in and use their creative talents to make an art project, providing them with all the supplies they need to create paintings, jewelry, sewing projects, and other crafts. Many of the works of art created in this space are for sale, both at Redbird Studios and also in local businesses throughout the community. 60% of proceeds go to the artist who made the item and 40% go to replenish the art supplies at the studio.
Jenn’s Vision for the Future of Kosciusko County
In closing, Jenn discussed what she is working toward in her position and how she sees Kosciusko growing and changing to welcome all people and all abilities.
“Most businesses that I have been to in Kosciusko County are very diverse or looking to become more diverse. Within my role as the Director of Employment Services, part of my job is meeting with business owners as well as other agencies to provide support and opportunities for the people we serve. There is a lot of talk of inclusiveness and working towards a more diverse workforce, as well as more diverse opportunities for people.”
Kosciusko by Choice
Kosciusko by Choice is an on-going video series highlighting the stories of individuals who have chosen to make their home in Kosciusko County. Stay tuned for the next video in the series!