A new business in downtown Mansfield, Mass., is helping out local youths while allowing people to shred documents and protect their privacy.

A new business in downtown Mansfield is helping out local youths while allowing people to shred documents and protect their privacy.

Mansfield Shredding Service is nonprofit and all green. It has been designed to fill a void: employment for some of the area's mentally challenged teenagers.

The operation is the brainchild of Mansfield resident Kathleen Harney, whose 18-year-old son, Patrick, is autistic.

The mentally challenged kids want to be productive members of the community, she said.

“They all want to work. Otherwise, they sit at home watching TV, looking at the walls,” she said. “For the past two years, I’ve been trying to find Patrick a job, but there are no places that will hire him. I even volunteered to pay for an assistant” but it was still no use.

The situation prompted Kathleen Harney to found a non-profit umbrella corporation, Mansfield Innovative and Development Services Inc., the mission of which is to start up small businesses and provide job skills training, business education and employment to mentally challenged students from Mansfield High School.

Patrick Harney has been part of Project Teammate, a program at the high school that allows special-education students to be tutored by their regular education peers.

Those Project Teammate students from MHS are the target beneficiaries for the new businesses that MIDS will strive to create.

“I want to help as many of these kids as we can. I want to create as many jobs as possible for them,” Kathleen Harney said.

Mansfield Shredding Service is the first such business to open. Kathleen Harney said she started with the shredding business because Patrick loves to shred.

“He kept asking me, ‘Mom, can I have a shredding business when I grow up?’” she recalled.

Now, she said, “He has a job. It’s something he loves.”

Patrick formally graduated from high school this June, the first time these special needs students have been able to graduate with their peers. However, because of their disabilities, he and his peers will stay in a special class at Mansfield High School until they turn 22. After that, the youngsters will fall under the Horace Mann Educational Association, which will seek to help them find gainful employment.

From ages 18 to 22, however, they still face an employment no-man’s land, a situation that Kathleen Harney hopes to rectify.

So far, Mansfield Shredding has been able to keep four challenged students busy, but Kathleen Harney hopes to employ more of them as the business picks up. She also got some help from the students’ regular education teammates from the high school — Lindsay Lively, Lindsay Snyder and Kimberly Frisoli, whom Kathy said have been “absolutely wonderful.” All volunteers are donating their time.

Mansfield Shredding is a completely green business. The documents are shredded on the spot — customers can watch if they want to — and the shredded paper is taken directly to Hanna Paper in Mansfield’s business park. From there, it is sent to pulp manufacturers.

Paper, after all, is a renewable source. Bringing sensitive documents to Mansfield Shredding will allow the paper to be used again, whereas putting it in the trash will not.

The shredding is $4 to $5 for a large box and is done on a walk-in basis.

“I feel very strongly that once people know we’re here, we’ll do well,” Kathleen Harney said.

Not only is the shredding of documents beneficial to businesses and entities that handle sensitive personal information, it also protects individuals against identity theft.

Kathleen Harney received several donations to get the business off the ground, including $1,000 from the Patrick McLaughlin Memorial Fund, $1,000 from Family Project Teammate, $5,000 from the Mansfield Gift Fund, and $15,000 from an anonymous donor.

“We’ve got it up and running. Now we need the business to come in so we can pay our bills,” Kathleen Harney said.

She hopes the business will be self-sustaining. It will remain nonprofit, with any additional funds going toward opening other MIDS businesses that can employ these special youths.

“We’ve also worked very closely with corporate partners, who have been tremendously helpful in bringing this together,” she said, citing Lou Davison, Hanna Paper Recycling, Richard Bros. Electric, Heather Hill Realty, Pro Sign Graphics and Jack Barton Residential Contracting as corporate partners.

The final thing on the wish list for Mansfield Shredding is some sort of a delivery van to facilitate the transfer of the shredded documents to Hanna Paper.

“That would solve our last big problem,” she said. “We desperately need this. Anything that will start and run five miles will do.”

For more information about Mansfield Shredding Service go to www.mansfieldshredding.com. Mansfield Innovative and Development Services, Inc.welcomes donations and volunteers. For more information go to www.mids-team.com.

Mansfield News