Crew work, ProAct help lay foundation for manufacturing job, living on his own

Manufacturing associate Dustin Eckhoff found valuable work experience in assembly and packaging at ProAct in Red Wing five years ago, quickly moving to work crews in the community and an independent job at Koozie Group this past summer.

Valuable skills learned, ongoing support from ProAct

“He has learned to problem solve on his own and how to ask for help more,” said Case Coordinator Lynn Sutherland, who visits Eckhoff at work at least twice a month. The two talk about any issues, such as schedule changes or hours, and he calls her with questions, such as when he needs help with human resources.

“They keep me motivated, compliment me about my work and make me feel good about my accomplishments and jobs,” said Eckhoff. Prior to being hired, he worked on a ProAct crew at the business.

Major employer, versatile worker

Koozie Group, which was formerly Bic, is a major employer in Red Wing. Eckhoff often works in the Digital Printing Process area, loading and unloading items from machines. Removing notebooks from bags and pulling cardboard from between them, the products are prepped for next steps, Sutherland explains.

The associate assembles printed products for shipping, which he also performs. “It could be putting batteries in the individual items box, items in bags or boxes and so on.” The company wants to train him for other aspects of the job soon, the coordinator said.

Satisfaction, independence for work and living

He likes being able do more than one job and the flexibility. “I love it.  The people are nice. If I have questions, they will answer them,” Eckhoff said.

His newfound independence also involved his living situation. By 2020, he had moved out of the family home and into his own apartment at Jordan Towers. “This was his first step in increasing his independence,” said Sutherland.

Grounded on crew, he took on new jobs on his own

Eckhoff continued to work on the crew at Koozie, and over time was able to move out into their facility to work on different jobs independent from the ProAct group. This gave him an opportunity to demonstrate his skills as an employee, the case coordinator said.

In June 2022, he applied for a part-time position and was hired. He is paid directly by Koozie Group and sets up hours that work with the city bus service.

Eckhoff is taking on more adult responsibilities and feels positive about it. “I know I can do a job on my own,” he said.