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Reaching for the sky

Blue sky inc president Steven schmit started the company in 2004. He has since seen Blue Sky grow to 45 employees and a coverage area of five counties. He says last year alone they helped 96 people find homes, find a job or live independently, all things that he says makes coming to work feel good.

Blue Sky Inc. sits tucked inconspicuously into the industrial park in Detroit Lakes.

It isn't the most prominent company in Detroit Lakes, in fact, one might not even know about it unless they have reason to.

But the people who do need them just might see their lives changed due to their services.

Blue Sky is a for-profit service provider contracted by the state of Minnesota and surrounding counties to help disabled people take control of their lives.

"We actually don't call them disabled, but differently abled," said Blue Sky President Steven Schmit.

Schmit is also the founder of the company, which is named for the optimism they see for their clients.

"It's the color we see the world in -- blue," said Schmit, "because we know that for those that are struggling, there's something better at the end of the road."

The goal of Blue Sky Inc. is to help individuals with disabilities in respite care, independent living skills and family support, as well as helping them find housing and jobs.

In fact, it is for its excellence in community support that the company just received accreditation honors through the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF International), which describes itself as an independent, nonprofit accreditor of health and human services.

What it means is, Blue Sky's reputation for excellence has become the silver lining Schmit had hoped it would be for the disabled in the area.

"It means we meet certain standards with high quality services, we measure what we do, and we are accountable for what we do," said Schmit, who is a Detroit Lakes native that worked for years doing social work in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Part of his job in case management was to purchase this sort of service for his clients.

When the idea came to him to start his own business as a provider, he knew he wanted to come back home to Detroit Lakes to do it.

"So, I started it up -- just me by myself," said Schmit, "and now we've grown to 45 employees."

They've also grown to reach clients in not just Becker County, but also Clay, Otter Tail, Crow Wing and Mahnomen.

Last year, they worked with 96 people throughout those five counties to help improve their lives by showing them how to find their own empowerment.

Schmit says they have a 70 percent success rate in finding their clients jobs, and he says they aren't always minimum wage positions.

"They're working at Lakeshirts, at BTD -- these are companies right here in our area that hire them, which is so important for their self esteem."

Schmit says if a client isn't able to live alone but would like to, they will train them on the skills necessary for independent living.

"We'll train them how to cook, how to clean, and we'll manage their health so they make it to the dentist or doctor when they're suppose to," said Schmit, who credits some of the company's success to the community and the growing understanding of disabilities.

"It's more progressive," said Schmit, "people are so much more apt to hire others with disabilities now, which is good because 3 percent of the population has some sort of disability -- it's not an uncommon thing."

To find out more on their services, log on to www.blueskyinc.info or call 1-877-722-3013 or 218-844-7591.

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