Recycled beads helping build lives at LARC

The tiny two-room building that houses Mardi Gras Beads-N-More next to Acadian Village in Lafayette recycles and repurposes Mardi Gras beads, but something perhaps more important goes on behind the scenes.

The store, which has sold recycled beads to Mardi Gras revelers for seven years, is mainly an effort to help LARC , an organization that prepares adults with developmental disabilities to be independent and job ready.

“People ride around with beads in their car all year like, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do with all this?’ ” said Susan Nini, with LARC. “Unless you ride (in a parade), you don’t know what to do with them.”

By giving them to LARC, people are recycling.

“Plus, you’re putting people with disabilities to work, which in turn helps out Lafayette economic development,” Nini said.

The strings of beads are displayed in the front of the store, and in a back room, separated by a collapsible wall, LARC workers sort through beads and separate them by size and length, discarding any that are dirty or broken.

The beads are stored in a 2,000-square-foot warehouse, which is fairly empty now, but which Nini said soon will be filled to the brim and then sold out again by next season.

Nini said it’s not known how many strands of beads come through the LARC store, but the group just purchased a new computer system to keep track.

“It’s got to be tens of thousands,” she said.

Stephen Paul Falgout, who has been with LARC for more than 10 years, works hard every day, counting bundles of beads and bagging them up to be resold.

Falgout said before working for LARC, all he did was stay home. With LARC, he works at the bead store in the morning and on other LARC contracts in the afternoon,

He said he was glad to be able to work and spend his own money on things like clothes and groceries.

“It’s teaching them a skill,” said Nini. “The hope of the vocational department at LARC is ultimately to train someone to do a job where they can go out in the community and get their own job, to be more independent.”

“It helps them build their resume,” she continued. “If Stephen wanted to not work on beads anymore and he wanted to go work at Lowes, he’s got experience. He can follow instructions; he comes to work every day. This is a job, not a day care center. They have to come to work; they can only miss so many days.”

LARC also holds contracts with several manufacturers and distributors, as well as maintaining Acadian Village, all of which it uses to help employees stay employed.

“It’s really important for them to have a job and a sense of worth and independence,” she said. “Some people have to work. They live in their own apartments and they have cable bills, phone bills, rent, food and groceries and all that.”

Nini said beads can be dropped off at any area Goodwill location or Raising Canes and urged people interested in volunteering to check their website at lafayettelarc.org and like them at facebook.com/Lafayette LARC for volunteer opportunities.