Causeway Bridges Learning, Job Gaps for Those with Special Needs

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio — A new employment training center will provide Mahoning Valley residents with developmental disabilities the skills they need to work local jobs.

The Causeway at Mineral Ridge celebrated its grand opening Wednesday at the Campus of Care at 4891 E. County Line Road. Opened by the Canton-based nonprofit TWi, the Causeway provides job training through vocational habilitation and adult day service programming.

The 6,000-square-foot center features specific training rooms, including a functional market, kitchen, restaurant, computer lab, artistic space and hotel room, where the 25 participants it currently serves learn job skills, said Lorie Hines, chief operating officer of TWi.

“Each room is set up as a lab to show people how to do those things,” Hines said.

During the opening event, participants greeted guests in each room as they toured the center, briefly describing what will be taught in those spaces.

Bill Whitaker, superintendent of Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities, lauded TWi’s “non-traditional” and “innovative” approach to training its constitutents.

“This is what it’s about,” Whitaker said. “Think back to your own child or brother or sister – the first time they got a paycheck, what that meant to them. Someone getting a paycheck and having a meaningful life. That’s what we’re trying to build here.”

TWi looks to partner with area businesses to hire some of its participants, Hines said, which would help alleviate some of the staffing shortages in the area. As the nonprofit has worked with other businesses, there’s been a noticeable, positive shift, she said.

“A lot of our folks are excited to go to work,” she said. Just last week, a business partner told Hines that since participants were hired in at that company, the morale of the staff has gone up. “Attendance has improved because they” look forward to working with TWi participants, she said.

The Causeway employs three staff members. TWi, formerly known as The Workshops Inc., was founded in 1968 and serves more than 400 individuals annually, helping them to achieve their employment goals.

As the nonprofit has grown and expanded its services, “The Causeway at Mineral Ridge is a continued expansion of what we do,” said CEO Ryan Heckert. The Causeway has received support by local organizations, including the Western Reserve Port Authority, Mahoning County commissioners, the boards of developmental disabilities from Mahoning and Trumbull counties, The Youngstown Foundation and state elected officials.

“We’re thankful to be working and providing services here. We look forward to expanding,” Heckert said.

For more information on TWi, visit

Pictured at top: On hand for the opening of The Causeway at Mineral Ridge were Sarah Warner, participant; state Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-58; Mahoning County Commissioner Anthony Traficanti; Edgar Reynolds, participant; Mahoning County Commissioner David Ditzler; and Ryan Heckert, TWi CEO.

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