Horizon Project’s STEP Center Celebrates New, Expanded Space

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An open house was held on Thursday, April 11 for the Horizon Project Inc.’s STEP Center for Independent Living at 125 S.E. Fourth Street in Hermiston. The center provides employment and community living services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Photos by Michael Kane)

Thursday was an emotional, but happy day for Kent Perkes.

The Horizon Project Inc. board member spoke yesterday morning at the open house for the STEP Center for Independent Living’s new space at 125 S.E. Fourth Street in Hermiston. The STEP (Steps to Empowerment) Center focuses on developing job skills for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities living in Umatilla County.

Employment services are among the core areas of focus of Horizon Project, along with residential and community living services.

On Thursday, Perkes wasn’t just speaking as a Horizon Project board member, he also spoke as a parent whose son completed the STEP Center’s program. Perkes fought back tears as he spoke of his son’s success in getting a job at Taco Bell.

“He got to wear the same uniform as everybody at Taco Bell,” Perkes said. “He had a lot of people smiling and he was proud of what he was doing. As a parent, I can tell you there is a lot of good being done here.”

Horizon Project Inc. board member Kent Perkes talks about the STEP Center for Independent Living during its open house on Thursday, April 11. To his immediate left is Horizon Project Inc. CEO Terri Silvis.

Horizon Project was founded in 1977 by a group Milton-Freewater parents who wanted to “create community-based opportunities for their adult children with disabilities through enhanced socialization and out-of-home activities,” according to its website. It has three locations – Hermiston, Pendleton and Milton-Freewater.

Horizon Project’s community integration activities include recreational and socialization activities, creative arts, volunteer opportunities, life skills mentoring, career development planning, skill building and job coaching.

Perkes said there are more than 70 people taking part in the same program his son completed.

“It’s one-on-one attention to help these people,” he said. Perkes outlined the core services of the STEP Center:

  • Discovery/Career Exploration Services where individuals explore their employment options and identify their interests and abilities
  • Employment Path Services in which Horizon professionals help people develop needed skills to achieve their goals
  • Job Development/Placement in which appropriate job opportunities are identified
  • Supported Employment Services provides job coaches to work with individuals to maintain or advance in the employment
  • Community Living Program offers daily activities and skill building and mentoring in areas such as safety in the community, socialization and education

“We try to add to their talents and abilities,” Perkes said.

The renovation of the STEP Center building, formerly the home of Smoke City for Less, was completed in March. Terri Silvis, CEO of Horizon Project Inc., said the new space provides much more room for staff and the individuals they serve.

“Now everyone has room to spread out,” Silvis said.

Perkes said the new space for the STEP Center will have long-lasting benefits.

“It will touch many, many lives in Umatilla County,” he said.

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