Celebration Company West Opens

Second location located on the J’s West Houston campus and provides supportive and transitional entrepreneurial employment for adults with disabilities.

September 22, 2023
Rene Kariel, Alexa H., Lauren Krocak, Jamie Weiner and Melissa Leisorek at Celebration Company West’s new location on Sept. 1

Celebration Company West Opens

Second location located on the J’s West Houston campus and provides supportive and transitional entrepreneurial employment for adults with disabilities.

September 22, 2023

A reason to celebrate: Celebration Company West gets to work at new location

Celebration Company West officially opened its doors on Thursday, Sept. 7.

After a summer of renovations, Celebration Company’s second location is an ideal setting for the art, photography and other inspired products created by employees of the Joan and Stanford Alexander Celebration Company. CC’s products have become Houston favorites with a growing following across the U.S. Celebration Company provides supportive and transitional entrepreneurial employment for adults with disabilities. The innovative program began in 2009.

Now, after reaching capacity at its central location on South Braeswood Boulevard, the second location will be able to meet its growing demand. As employees of Alexander JFS, participants earn an hourly wage and participate in profit sharing for art sales. The new location on the west side of Houston benefits from collaboration with the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, as Celebration Company West is located on the J’s West Houston campus, which also houses the Ellen Boniuk Early Childhood School.

Celebration Company West brings expanded opportunities for adults with disabilities, including for wheelchair users for whom services are not readily available. CC West is equipped with ample equipment and will provide exceptional programming for employees to create artwork, learn and practice life and social skills, and become engaged with a community that advances the talents and interests of new Celebration Company participants. As in the original CC program, internships and work in community-based jobs will add to work readiness and skills.

All spaces for CC West have been adapted to foster inclusion and accessibility. Wheelchair users can prepare food in the new kosher kitchen, which is an important part of Celebration Company life. Every Friday, the employees and staff prepare a Shabbat oneg meal and prepare for Shabbat with blessings and songs.

In addition, a staff office, meeting rooms, break room, personal lockers, doors with automatic openers and even Hoyer lifts are part of the space, bringing functionality and accessibility for all. The art program has equipment for glass fusing, paper making, candle rolling and other artistic endeavors. Employees may focus on fitness in the JCC West Houston gym, and there are plans to partner with the Ellen Boniuk School to develop collaborative programming. “We are excited to welcome Celebration Company West to our campus and look forward to our collaboration and the opportunity to further promote inclusion opportunities in the Greater West Houston/Katy area,” said Rene Kariel, Director of the Ellen Boniuk School.

ERJCC CEO Joel Dinkin and Alexander JFS CEO Carl Josehart.
ERJCC CEO Joel Dinkin and Alexander JFS CEO Carl Josehart.

Using the resources already available within the Houston Jewish community is an example of positive collaboration. Joel Dinkin, CEO of the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston, noted, “It is a pleasure to find a way to make use of our facilities in a way that benefits a trusted community partner, as well as brings new services and programs to the west side of Houston, where so many in our Jewish community live.”

Carl E. Josehart, Alexander Jewish Family Service CEO expressed appreciation for this collaboration. “Not only will this provide individuals with disabilities on the west side convenient access to this program, but now Alexander JFS, as well as the ERJCC, can consider expanding other programs and services for this community with these updated facilities,” Josehart said.

“This is the perfect example of Alexander JFS’ goal to be able to provide our essential services to a broader geographical area by creating partnerships with existing facilities and organizations.”

Opening day – a welcome gathering for employees, orientation meeting, tour of the facilities and time to become familiar with their lockers and other workspaces – greets the initial seven individuals enrolled in the program. Their workday begins by 9:30.

“This summer has been one of planning and building, with all the noise and dust of a construction zone,” said Lauren Krocak, the new CC West coordinator. “They will bring new use to an underused facility and I’m so happy to be a part of the expansion to the west side of town. My prior work at The Briarwood School has prepared me to support and expand the work of Celebration Company and I’m looking forward to our bright future.”

Jamie Paul Weiner, LCSW, manager of Disability Services and Houston Alexander Institute for Inclusion, added, “Prior to our official first day, we already had a pop-up store selling candles, cards, honey cakes and other items. So many parents stopped by to check out the facility and purchase items.

“The dream of expanding our program to serve more people was made a reality by the generous support of our community partners and by the Harvey R. Houck Jr. and Patricia W. Houck Foundation, the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation, Joy and Joe Kaplan and families of Celebration Company employees. We also have had support from many individuals and friends: people such as caterer Jenny Tavor and husband Sam, who helped us secure appliances for our kosher kitchen.”
- Jamie Weiner, Alexander JFS Manager of Disability Services and Alexander Institute for Inclusion.

Rabbi Gideon Estes of Congregation Or Ami was selected to affix a mezuzah on the first day of work.

“Having another organization, one with such a strong track record of excellence in programs and services such as Alexander JFS, commit to running a program in West Houston is a welcome addition to Jewish life in our area,” said Rabbi Estes. “Or Ami looks forward to collaborating with Celebration Company West in the future.”

The first instance of that collaboration will take place when the congregation serves as the venue host for Joan and Stanford Alexander Celebration Company’s Rosh Hashanah celebration, which will bring the employees of both locations together for the first time.

Most excited are those who are starting their work there. Bailey Ferguson, who has worked at Celebration Company Central for many years, now will be able to increase the number of days she can come to work each week because the new location is closer to her home.

“Celebration Company West is going to be a great place to work,” said Ferguson. “I’m so excited to be a part of it! I hope everyone comes over to visit us and check it out.”

Planning is underway for a formal dedication ceremony at Celebration Company West sometime in January 2024.

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