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About Us

Mission Statement

Lakestate Industries is dedicated to helping people recognize and maximize their abilities, overcome barriers, and support them in reaching their highest level of employment and community inclusion.


Founded in 1969, Lakestate began as an outgrowth of a parents group concerned with the lack of opportunities available for people with disabilities. Thus, Lakestate's focus has been giving persons with disabilities the opportunity to experience the rewards of working for "real pay" while removing barriers to employment and promoting community inclusion.

Lakestate Industries provides vocational career exploration, job development, work training and job services to adult and student populations. We provide contracted services to businesses that make a significant impact on our community.

Lakestate Industries can help your business in many ways.
We do the following plus so much more:

  • Provide high quality employees to our business community.
  • Provide sub-contracting services (our place or yours) including, but not limited to: confidential sorting and shredding, light assembly, labeling, packaging, repackaging and bulk mailings.
  • Produce quality hand-crafted specialty products.
  • Manufacture custom pallet cutstock and pallets designed to your needs.
  • Provide vocational rehabilitation services to persons with mental and/or physical disabilities.
  • Our store features custom made furniture and Yooper Fire Starters made by persons with varying abilities. Shop online now!

Charitable Giving

Lakestate Industries is a 501(C)(3) agency.

100% of your generous donation goes directly to help people with disabilities become independent, productive members in our community. Lakestate Industries wants to ensure they will be able to provide vocational services for persons with barriers to employment (people with cognitive, emotional, and/or physical disabilities) long into the future.

Many people in our area (8-10% of our population) experience difficulties getting and/or keeping employment because of their disability. Lakestate Industries serves individuals and gives them the opportunity to work either at Lakestate Industries or in the community with supports, which enables them to earn a paycheck, gain self-worth and live richer, more meaningful lives.

Help Us! There are several ways to donate.

  • Cash donations
  • In honor and memory of a family member or friend
    Note: Upon receipt of your gift, a card is sent to the family or persons honored, listing the name or names of the donor(s). The amount of the gift is never indicated. Your contribution will be discreetly acknowledged and is tax-deductible.
  • Charitable Bequests –
    Naming Lakestate Industries in your will, trust or life insurance policy as the designated beneficiary. The benefits of planned giving to both you and Lakestate Industries are enormous and encouraged by the Federal government by offering income tax and estate tax advantages to donors. When planning your estate we recommend that you seek the advice of an Estate Planning Attorney or your financial advisor. Charitable bequests in your will will reduce estate taxes
  • You can donate online. We accept Mastercard, Visa, checks, money orders or donate through PayPal. Checks are payable to Lakestate Industries. 

Success Stories

"Welcome to Wal-Mart." Many of us have heard that a thousand times before. Nonetheless, at Escanaba Wal-Mart there is a distinct voice that greets you as you enter the store. Behind that low raspy voice and a big bright smile he welcomes you, your spouse and your children all by name. He is one of Wal-Mart's well known door greeters, Mitch Varnum. He has been employed by Wal-Mart since 2005. There is not a day that goes by that Mitch does not let you know how much he enjoys his job.

Mitch attended Special Education classes all his life, he can't tell time or read weekly schedules, he needs prompts to punch in and out at work and making transportation arrangements to and from work. It might make you think, "how can someone with limitations such as Mitch's have a job.?" Mitch grew up in Manistique, Michigan and lived there most of his life. When Mitch was a teenager his parents along with the Special Education Director from the Delta Intermediate School District had arranged for Mitch to start attending the Learning Center in Escanaba, Michigan. Mitch rode the bus to and from Manistique daily. Prior to Mitch graduating from the Learning Center at age 26, he was introduced to Lakestate Industries for a work opportunity. Mitch began working for Lakestate Industries in June of 1988. He did a variety of jobs such as working in the Woodshop making pallets, stacking stringers, Delta Plaza Mall cleaning and at the Recycling Center sorting through materials and helping customers in the drive-thru. He would often go on runs with the Recycling Coordinator from Lakestate and retrieve recyclables from the bins at varies sites in the community. Mitch's parents felt that his work opportunity was very important. They found him a home with 24 hour staff in case of emergencies in Escanaba, opposed to him riding the bus or taking a taxi back and forth to Manistique.

Prior to the holiday season in 2000 while doing Job Development through Community Employment Services through Lakestate Industries, Mitch was given the opportunity to work in the community at Wal-Mart with a job coach to help him with his functional limitations. At first, he was told that he would only be working through the holiday season. After the hustle and bustle of the holidays had ended, Wal-Mart contacted Lakestate Industries to offer Mitch a more permanent part-time job. With the help of the Program Director at Lakestate who gets Mitch's schedule from Wal-Mart and relays that information to his mother and home provider, having Job Coaches assist Mitch at lunch time to punch in and out for breaks Mitch was provided a kitchen timer for his lunch pail so he can punch back into work if there is not a Job Coach there to help him at lunch time, along with the Personnel Manager who assists Mitch with his yearly CCBL's (computer based learning) modules, Mitch has worked successfully in the community.

Mitch enjoys his job, traveling with his mother, and he has had the privilege of meeting many famous people in history including: Detroit Tigers baseball players including Mark Fidrych "the bird", Norman Cash and Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan had a condo next to Mitch in Florida and he spent many winters with him. Additionally Mitch had the pleasure to meet Bobby Valentine, Willie Nelson, Charlie Pride, Muhammad Ali, President Gerald Ford, George Romney (Mitt's father), President George W. Bush Jr. While in Florida for the winter George Bush Jr. (his father was President at the time) would play a game at the pier when the boats would come in. To the average individual, these are some important people. To Mitch, the most important people in his life are the ones he sees at work.

Next time you walk into Wal-Mart and you see Mitch, stop and introduce yourself. He will be sure to make you feel welcomed with a personal hello by name.