Earlier this month, Governor Jared Polis toured a handful of housing developments in Boulder, including Boulder Housing Partners’ (BHP’s) 30Pearl affordable housing project. This project is now home to 20 residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and we support them with our Ramble Community Connections program. BHP hosted the tour where Governor Polis had a chance to meet some of the residents, learn about our community-based services, and visit Ramble Marketplace.
30Pearl includes 120 apartment units that are affordable to households earning 30 to 60 percent of Boulder County’s Area Median Income (AMI). Among the 120 apartment units, BHP dedicated 20 units to adults with IDD who typically earn just 10 to 20 percent of AMI making even these affordable apartments out of reach. These 20 units were therefore provided with additional rent subsidies to make the units truly affordable. BHP also partnered with Ramble to offer programs to help these individuals thrive in independent community-based living.
“Across Boulder County, approximately 800 individuals with IDD are living with and being cared for by their parents who are aged 60 and above,” Co-founder, Andy Minden, said. “Not only is there a lack of quality and affordable housing for this population, but they are also often isolated from the community. That is why we started Ramble Community Connections.”
Ramble’s Community Connections program offers activities, experiences, and interactive engagements that support people of all abilities and create opportunities for them to develop sustainable, natural relationships with their neighbors and new friends in their community.
“The people living at 30Pearl are the true asset for Boulder. We are thrilled to blend 30Pearl and its high-quality, affordable housing and services into our greater community,” said Jeremy Durham, Executive Director of BHP.
Our new “Boulder-born” gift shop, Ramble Marketplace, is co-located with the 30Pearl project and will be a second home for our Ramble Opportunities apprentice program. This program has created pathways to community employment out of our sister store, Ramble on Pearl, since 2014. Starting next year, we will be expanding the capacity of our apprentice program in conjunction with Ramble Marketplace.
To learn more about Ramble Community Connections click HERE.
We started working with Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) in 2018 to create an Independent Living Community that supports the housing needs of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). BHP’s Bluebell building at 30Pearl made it possible to do just that. Among the 120 apartment units in the Bluebell affordable apartment building, Boulder Housing Partners dedicated 20 to adults with IDD. Flash forward to the beginning of this year, construction on Bluebell was complete. In February, residents started moving into their brand-new apartments. Now that they had access to quality and affordable housing through BHP, we then launched a new program called Ramble Community Connections to help them thrive in that environment.
Since then, we’ve been busy expanding our Ramble Community Connections program. We help these individuals develop meaningful connections with their apartment neighbors and connect with the community by hosting various activities. “We Since then, we’ve been busy expanding our Ramble Community Connections program. We help these individuals develop meaningful connections with their apartment neighbors and connect with the community by hosting various activities. “We recently started expanding our activities to better meet the needs of the residents of Bluebell,” says Programs Director Christina Bremer. “We host a handful of engaging activities such as arts and crafts, movie nights, and social gatherings in the community room on the first floor. For others, we take residents out to experience and enjoy fun things in Boulder. Just last September, the “Bluebell Players” wrote and performed a play called ‘The Adventures of Sally’ to a standing room-only audience.”
We check in with residents weekly to ensure we’re providing the support they need to live successfully at Bluebell. So far, they all seem to love their new apartments and the opportunities provided through our Ramble Community Connections program. Many of them say they are more active living at Bluebell than when they lived at home with their parents – as many of them did. “I go out for walks every day and use my Wii way more to take care of myself,” Claire shared, who’s a resident in the Bluebell building.
We will be expanding our Ramble Community Connections program in 2022, focusing on improving the structure, planning, and variety of activities. “We will be scheduling activities farther in advance so residents can make plans to participate in all of the ones they want,” adds Bremer. “We will also be improving the quality and variety of our programs so we can offer the best possible experiences for the residents at Bluebell. Lastly, we will be looking for ways to encourage more involvement from the community with volunteer opportunities.”
Ramble is excited to announce the opening of our second store, Ramble Marketplace, located in the heart of the East Pearl Residential and Business district. Opened just in time for this holiday season, Ramble Marketplace is a gift shop that offers an inspired collection of products and handcrafted works of art created and designed right here in Boulder, Colorado. Our new store offers unique “Boulder-Born” gifts for the selective shopper including paintings, wall art, pottery, home décor, jewelry, toys, and much more.
In addition to reaching more people with a new range of offerings, Ramble Marketplace allows us to expand our Ramble Opportunities apprentice program that has been creating pathways to community employment out of our flagship store, Ramble on Pearl since 2014. The program expansion is a strategic move to increase the capacity of our program.
Dozens of prior program participants have benefitted from the customer-facing aspects of our original venue at Ramble on Pearl. However, individuals who experience social anxiety struggle with the need to interact with customers at our existing venue. Our expansion into Ramble Marketplace is designed to fit those needs. Here we will be offering packaged gift collections assembled in an adjacent fulfillment space. This will allow us to teach skills in high demand with local businesses and create job opportunities with a broader range of potential employers.
Ramble Marketplace was made possible through our partnership with Boulder Housing Partners and is on the first floor of the Bluebell Building of their 30Pearl Project affordable housing apartment project. Among the 120 apartment units, 20 are dedicated to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
A great way to stay updated on the program and apprentice updates is to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. In the meantime, we would love to see you at Ramble Marketplace – the perfect place to shop for your holiday gifts! For store hours and additional information, visit https://theramblecollective.org/ramble-marketplace.
Here’s an update on how two of our residents are doing at their 30Pearl apartments.
Like many people who need subsidized housing, Claire Leonard has had her share of submitting applications without getting a coveted housing voucher. So when she heard about the project at 30Pearl to offer 20 units (about half) to adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), she applied without much hope. “I was so surprised when they emailed and offered me a spot!” she said. “It was pretty fast after that. It was kind of crazy getting everything ready.” Claire moved into the new apartment building in early May this year.
Claire’s friend, Sabrina also moved into 30Pearl along with two other friends making the building a friendly place. Claire often joins The Ramble Collective at their group morning coffee. Everyone in the building is invited and it’s created a fun way to get to know neighbors. Claire and Sabrina both report how happy they are to be living on their own. Claire likes the convenient location. “I can walk anywhere I need-it’s great,” she says.
Sabrina likes being independent and that the bus station and stops are close so she can get to work. “I love being able to do whatever I want, whenever I want!”
Claire’s orange tabby, Dixie, lives with her and so far, it’s going well. “I take her out for a walk every day. I have a harness and use a wagon for when she is done.” The neighbors are getting to know the pair as they explore the neighborhood.
Both women have had a few glitches moving in. Sabrina wasn’t used to an electric stove and had to adjust to the fast cooking speed. “I burned mac and cheese the first time I made it,” she said. “But I figured it out.”
They have also found they are more active than they were living at home with a parent. “I go out for walks every day and use my Wii way more to take care of myself,” Claire shared.
Having friends to go out to lunch or do a Target run is something they both really like. “I love that my best friends are here too,” Sabrina said. “It makes it more fun to have people to go do stuff with.”
Let’s hope the other residents are as happy at 30Pearl as these two are!
This blog post was originally published in the Associaton for Community Living (ACL) newsletter on 9/16/2021.
Meet Will, Ramble On Pearl’s newest apprentice! Will approached The Ramble Collective while he was working at Goodwill to explore new career opportunities and expand his skillset. Like other apprentices, Will was first hired on as a candidate where he had a chance to explore the work environment and make sure the program was a good fit. During that time, Will also expanded his knowledge in customer service and learned valuable skills he could use in his future career, such as interacting with customers, working the cash register, folding clothing, and stocking shelves.
Will excelled during his trial period and quickly became a star at communicating with customers while keeping the store in tip-top shape. He attributes a big part of this to the work environment at Ramble On Pearl. “It’s my favorite work environment that I’ve experienced because of the people surrounding me and the positive energy,” adds Will. “A relaxed vibe and friendly faces are what really make it stand out.”
Will hopes to find a stocking position soon. His other aspiration is to become a voice actor for one of his favorite animated shows – something he enjoys doing in his spare time, along with spending time with friends. Welcome, Will!
This past year has been challenging to us all, but we have weathered the worst and come out stronger than ever as we approach the exciting opportunities ahead for us in 2021.
We started 2020 having supported an all time high of 10 program graduates in their new places of independent community employment during 2019 and with retail sales at Ramble on Pearl up almost 40% compared to 2018.
And then COVID arrived on the scene just as we were starting to put in place our plans for our program expansion as part of Boulder Housing Partners’ 30Pearl affordable housing project and our Independent Living Community. Due to the Governor’s Stay-at-Home orders, we were forced to temporarily close our doors and adjust to remote learning for our apprentices. However, we did take advantage of that time to launch an online store. Despite these efforts, retail sales dropped over 30% in 2020 – primarily due to the drop off in out-of-town visitors to Pearl Street who typically make up 40% of our annual sales. Thanks to all of you who have continued to support us during these difficult times by Shopping With Purpose!
Since then we’ve seen a lot of changes. Elsewhere, we have posted about our new executive director, but we also brought on a new leadership team to support our day to day operations as we continue to grow.
Daniela came to Boulder Treasures in Summer 2019 hoping to work at Walgreen’s — a goal she attained by December. It’s been highly rewarding. A job “makes me feel that I am part of the community. . . . I also like the money,” she laughs.
At Ramble, she became skilled at the cash register. “The money piece, I mastered,” she says. “I didn’t really think I would be able to do [that], because I’ve always had a hard time counting money.” At Walgreen’s, she became a main cashier on her shifts. Daniela credits Ramble or helping her become successful. “Ramble did an excellent job teaching her skills,” notes her mother, “and continuing on once she was hired at Walgreen’s was very useful and helpful.”
Daniela worked through the COVID-19 pandemic. The stress of masks and protective gear finally became too much. She needed a break. Ramble’s training proved helpful again. Apprentices learn to plan their leaves. Accordingly, Daniela gave notice so her manager could adjust. If you just leave, she points out, “you won’t get a good recommendation.” She handled it so well, her supervisor says she is welcome back as soon as she’s ready.
We’re almost there! Construction will be completed within a month’s time and the residents of the Independent Living Community will be moving in soon!
For those of you who may have forgotten, 30Pearl is a 120 unit, 3 building affordable housing project that Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) is building in the heart of downtown Boulder. It is located at the site of the former Pollard Jeep dealership and flanked by Boulder Junction Transit Center and Barnes & Noble across 30th. The Bluebell building includes 40 units, 20 of which have been allocated to adults with IDD and selected through a lottery system. Boulder Treasures will provide community engagement services to the Blubell residents to facilitate their connections with each other and the community at large. In addition, we have leased space to operate a second social enterprise to host an expansion of our apprentice program. The other two buildings, Mesa and Magnolia, will be ready for occupancy by the end of summer. Additional, market-rate units will be built by commercial developers on three adjacent plots. With 100’s of additional market rate units being built nearby, the residents of Bluebell’s Independent Living Community will be truly integrated into the heart of downtown Boulder.
BHP will act as landlord to the residents living in these studio, 1 & 2 bedroom units. BHP has created gathering spaces on the 2nd and 3rd floors that will be furnished with TVs, game/puzzle/crafting tables, sofas, etc. where residents can gather for impromptu hangouts, or just admire stunning views of the Flatirons! In addition, Boulder Treasures will provide common space programming within the first floor community space where residents can participate in organized activities led by community volunteers. If you’re interested in joining our growing list of volunteers, email us at email@example.com.
Confidence on display at Ramble on Pearl (Harrison, Farrah, and Emily)
At a staff meeting last week we asked ourselves, “What is one thing apprentices get from Ramble that makes us proud?” The first response was, “Confidence!” Over and over, others echoed that answer. We love that apprentices leave here feeling confident and assured in their own abilities. As they contribute to the store, gain more skills on the job, and see evidence of how much they have learned, Ramblers get used to feeling strong and able.
This past week we had one of our best examples of that confident approach manifest in a job search. One of our apprentices got an interview for an attractive job, and had an opportunity to test her confidence. The hiring manager’s available time slot was exactly wrong for our Ramble coach. Undaunted, the apprentice went ahead, booked it, and did the interview.
Although that position did not work out, when she got another interview for a job she really wanted, she approached the opportunity with confidence. As her job coach went over some practice questions, she felt even more assured. Although the coach offered to come along as a support, that proved unnecessary. She insisted that she would do the second interview on her own, too. She appreciated the offer of help and support, but she felt like she could do it. She’s got this!
So last Saturday, she went on her own for a second interview for a job she really wanted. As we see it, that’s a victory in itself.
As you meet your own challenges, approach them with confidence. You got this!
Although this story is not about Cameron’s experience, his letter makes its point.
Shop with Purpose. We’ve said it before and if you’re new to our mission, you might be wondering what we mean. In case you missed it, Ramble on Pearl founder Andy Minden sat down with the BizWest podcast in January where they discussed what it’s like to run a small business deemed “non-essential” during the pandemic. Here’s what Andy had to say about the purpose of Ramble on Pearl:
“We’re a non-profit social enterprise, which for a clothing boutique sounds a little bit odd, but what we do is host a job training apprentice program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We help learn what their skillsets are, what they need some help strengthening over a period of 3-6 months, and then we help them get jobs with local community employers. They are working alongside our job coaching staff and retail staff, so when you come in to the store you might not expect it, but it’s part of what we do!”
Andy also discussed how the pandemic has affected our graduates who have lost jobs due to the pandemic, and our efforts to continue assisting them in finding new employment solutions.
Responding to the the perception that hiring an IDD adult is risky, Andy said: “One of the things we’re pretty proud of with our program graduates, since many of them are filling entry level positions, is that once they do get a job that is well-matched to their skillset…their longevity and retention in those jobs is much higher than the typical entry-level job that rotates in and out of constantly re-training new employees.”
So, what can you do to continue supporting us and your other favorite local businesses? Andy offers some suggestions:
- We launched our online store in May 2020, where you can shop from the safety of your home, and select delivery or curbside pickup.
- Purchase a gift card now to give a friend or to shop later in the post-pandemic world.
- Leave reviews or spread the word on social media when you have a great experience with us or another small business.
- Know that we have taken your safety and that of our employees to heart. We have adopted a complete range of “new normal” safety precautions to provide the safest shopping experience possible. You can read more about these practices on our Shop Small, Shop Safe post. You can also request a free, private shopping appointment to minimize exposure. Contact us by phone at 303-442-2267 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Listen to the full BizWest Podcast episode here (find Andy at 20:30).
Thanks to BizWest for inviting us to chat, and thank you for continuing to support small businesses like ours!