One of my greatest passions is helping individuals with developmental disabilities. In the past 18 years that I have been working with adults with developmental disabilities, I have seen so many struggle to find employment once they graduate high school. Many adults with developmental disabilities get vocational training and unfortunately don’t get the opportunity to use these skills due to difficulty obtaining jobs. Companies like Low Tide Island Designs directly help adults with developmental disabilities gain employment and learn new skills.
On a recent trip to Martha’s Vineyard, I found a beautiful elephant bracelet (pictured below) in a general store that I immediately picked up to purchase. The bracelet is colorful, well made and unique in the way the beads are designed. When I saw the company, Low Tide Island Design and their mission, I contacted them for an interview to help spread the word.
I am excited to share this interview with Deborah Kreter, found of Low Tide Island Designs. Thank you Deborah for taking the time to answer my questions! Also, a big kudos to your wonderful work in making this world a more inclusive community. To learn more about Low Tide Island Design, visit their website here. To see their full product line, check out Low Tide Island Design Catalog.
1. Can you give me a brief history of your company, Low Tide Designs?
Low Tide Island is an island on the coast of Connecticut, which disappears from sight at high tide. Low Tide Island Design’s mission is to help keep developmentally disabled adults from “disappearing” from our sight.
More than 450,000 special abilities persons have been employed in U.S. workshops. Federal rules have been closing these workshops since 2014 and will continue to do so through 2020, taking the security of employment away from this population. Low Tide Island Design wants to help create and maintain dignified work opportunities, for these adults.
Deborah Kreter, founder of Low Tide Island Design, has been passionate about developing community integrated programs for special populations since her youth. Currently, she is creating work opportunities for developmentally disabled adults through the construction of Low Tide Island Design bracelets.
Low Tide Island Design’s goal is to help provide 1,000 job opportunities to developmentally disabled and special needs adults while spreading joy, positivity and health mindfulness to all through their meaningful designs.
In 2014, Low Tide Island Design started making their bracelets in workshops for developmentally disabled adults in Connecticut. Currently, bracelets are also made in Illinois, California, Wisconsin and Florida.
2. What inspired you to create a jewelry company that would help adults with developmental disabilities?
Since the age of 11, I have been involved with working with persons with DD and other special abilities. Starting with weekly visits to nursing homes continued for years, teaching swimming to kids with DD, developing ice skating programs pairing a high school hockey team with kids and adults with DD, community synch swim programs for young adults with DD, leading to a community performance, just to mention a few of my experiences.
After completing my M.S. in Therapeutic Recreation and Psych from the U of Illinois, I worked as a program director in Psych and Nursing facilities. My focus was always on creating programs with dignity, to promote, joy, social connection, functional skills, independence, community integration and awareness.
It was only natural that when I started making peace bracelets for selling, to find a way to reconnect with a group working with adults with DD. All of our bracelets were made at one workshop for the first year until the government closed their work program. The government will continue to do this thru 2020. We kept looking and quickly found 2 other large work sites to develop more artisans. Currently our bracelets are made by adults with DD in 6 states. We have conducted work training sessions in 5 states, pertaining to the creation of our bracelets and are contacted regularly with inquiring about making our bracelets. The need is so very strong.
3. Your jewelry is not only unique and beautifully crafted, it’s also symbolic with what they represent. For example, my rainbow elephant bracelet attracts luck and symbolizes protection, wisdom and knowledge. Can you explain this more?
I love stories! I wanted to spread JOY and mindfulness in these trying times. Our bracelets made from stone, semi-precious metals and glass are materials said to have metaphysical and healing properties. These properties are identified on the tags of each bracelet.
We deliberately only create designs that are “relatable” or recognizable like animals or symbols, have meaning. “You” will connect with a design because it reminds you of a person or positive memory, this is why they sell so well. These relatable designs are known to have symbolic meanings, we share these meanings in a functional way. Encouraging the wearer, to allow their bracelet to remind them to “Believe Outloud”. We do this, with a suggested positive affirmation, related to their design. An example for the Elephant, who are the gate keepers to the luck gods, is: Say out loud many times a day, “Today, Luck is coming to me in every way.”
4. How can others support your mission?
Spread the Word!
Obviously, the more awareness we can create about Low Tide Island Design and our Artisans, the more bracelets we sell and the more bracelets we sell, the more work for Artisans we can create. It is as simple as that.
Additionally, if we can have any impact on other companies who make things, to think about what they do and if there is any portion of what they do, that can be done by someone with a DD. If they could do this, they could impact lives directly and immediately, for this group, who are too often, forgotten. It takes a little more to do this, but the impact is huge, visible and real.
Our contribution is to persons with special abilities, is the additional time it takes to maintain a program like this and the financial commitment on our part, to partner with special artisans in the creation of our bracelets. We are dedicated to improving these lives and creating 1000 Artisan work opportunities. Opportunities that will continue to develop their self-esteem, dignity thru paid work, pride in creating something they relate to and are proud of, achievement in a creative accomplishment, connect with each other and their community. These directly impact the quality of their day to day life and those around them. Low Tide Island Design wants to be a part of this process.
(We provide business cards for our Artisans and they are invited to keep one bracelet in each design they create, for their own collection.)