Retail bag stamping task helps PEP members, business owner

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Eric Mierzwa, a member of Programs for Exceptional People, takes a short break from stamping paper shopping bags for ArtWare on Jan. 4 in PEP's workroom. COURTESY PEP

When a local business owner needed new shopping bags before the countywide single-use plastic bag ban went into effect in 2018, she reached out to Programs for Exceptional People.

ArtWare owner Jennifer Megliore had found colored paper bags for her Hilton Head Island store, but she thought they needed a little artistic flair.

"It was a classic 3 a.m. thought," Megliore said. "I thought, 'That would be the perfect job for Programs for Exceptional People.' They're always on the lookout for work that their members can produce."

Megliore reached out to PEP, and the nonprofit group that works with special needs adults was happy to take on the job.

Founded in 1995, PEP is an adult activity center that offers a variety of programs to adults with intellectual disabilities who live full- or part-time in Beaufort and Jasper counties. They can take exercise classes, learn how to cook, receive job training and make money doing contract work.

Megliore ordered 4-inch stamps with her company information and logo, along with a line at the bottom that reads "Stamped by Programs for Exceptional People." PEP leaders picked up the bags and members got to work stamping bags.

Megliore said she wants to encourage other local retailers who stamp their paper bags in-house to give the work to PEP members.

PEP community relations coordinator Taylor Sullivan said the organization is always looking for more work opportunities for its members. She said PEP currently has 63 members and is constantly adding more.

"Contract work, such as bulk mailing, stamping and labeling, is especially nice because it allows members to complete the job right at PEP," Sullivan said.

She said PEP is also looking for businesses in Bluffton, near its new home in Sheridan Park, where small groups of its members can work on site with a vocational instructor.

Sullivan said PEP members are enjoying the project they are doing for ArtWare.

"It's a great opportunity for them to earn wages while keeping busy, working with their hands, and learning valuable vocational skills," Sullivan said. "We really appreciate ArtWare's support, and we look forward to working with many other local businesses in this wonderful community."

For more information on Programs for Exceptional People and how a business can work with the organization, call 843-681-8413 or visit pephhi.org.

Amy Coyne Bredeson of Bluffton is a freelance writer, a mother of two and a volunteer with the Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance.

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