Stepping up: Saxon Shoes creates career opportunities for Villa students

The Villa’s partnership with Saxon Shoes has grown over the years from what started as a holiday fundraiser for local nonprofits in 2016. Today, the store serves as a work training site for our Career and Transition Services students, where they can build valuable skills for employment.

The Villa’s Career and Transition Services (CATS) supports individuals with emotional, behavioral and academic challenges, as well as those with moderate to severe developmental disabilities. Local CATS partners like Saxon Shoes help participants gain problem solving and communication skills in real-world work environments that they can apply to reaching their individual goals in the future.

“We like to let the students know what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it, so that they can take ownership and feel good about the work,” said Gary Weiner, president and owner of Saxon Shoes. “If they can leave here with a smile on their face and a sense of accomplishment, that alone is worth the effort.”

Harmony, a student in our Dooley School, is one of two Villa students who currently visits Saxon Shoes each week to help with tasks around the store. Between organizing inventory, stocking shelves and helping with shredding, Harmony has come to excel in her responsibilities with support from her teacher, Carol Kurz, and Crissy Egerton, a member of the CATS team.

Gary says that throughout the store’s 70 years as part of the Richmond community, giving back has been a cornerstone of the business.

“Our staff at Saxon love seeing the kids come around, they like being involved, and they like to see the growth in the students just like the staff at the Villa.”

Not only has Saxon Shoes welcomed multiple Villa students through its doors to help them learn in the workplace, they’ve gone on to hire two of our Dooley Center for Alternative Education students. Putting into practice the skills and knowledge they gained from CATS staff and training at Saxon, these students are thriving in their new jobs.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the hard work our students put in each day they’re with us, whether in the classroom or at a worksite out in the community,” said Matthew Kreydatus, Director of Career and Transition Services. “Seeing that work open doors for them, and help them realize the skills they have to offer, makes it all the more rewarding. Partnerships with local businesses like Saxon Shoes make these transformations possible.”

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