One of the gingerbread houses sitting in the River Falls Public Library is covered in symbols representing opposites, brought together on one gingerbread house: From Packers and Vikings to Democrats and Republicans. Its creator, Jane Mannetter, said she hopes it conveys a message of togetherness and cooperation, despite differences.
Mannetter is widely known throughout the community as "Zaney Janey" for her party business, doing things like giving henna tattoos at events. That is only one piece of what she does.
What people might not know, Mannetter said, is that she also offers programming and respite services for clients with disabilities. Mannetter's educational background is in social work and she's been focused on caring for adults with disabilities for years.
But, she said, there is a need around the country, including locally, for more care, both in-home, and in facilities, for vulnerable adults, either senior citizens needing more help or adults with disabilities.
"People who work in this field need good support," Mannetter said. "They need good training. They need kudos for the job done well. And they need a good wage, because we're working with humans."
Mannetter said there's also a need for housing for adults with disabilities. She said adult group homes are closing, and it can be hard for people who live there to find new living situations.
She hopes to spread awareness of what is going on in the field of giving care to vulnerable adults. She said it can be hard to find caregivers.
"There aren't enough," she said.
She said more outreach is needed.
Meanwhile, Mannetter said, she's doing what she can to reach out. She's grateful to live in River Falls, which she described as a very supportive community.
Mannetter received her social work degree from UW-Madison and has worked as a caregiver for adults with disabilities ever since. She's done direct care, giving on-site care for people at life-in facilities, as well as respite care.
A self-titled "activity director," Mannetter has combined her two businesses into one LLC: ZJ Days.
Mannetter said she likes the business model embraced by Plantables in Hudson and Mei Mei's Cookies in River Falls. Both organization employ adults with disabilities.
Mannetter has incorporated what she calls social entrepreneurship into her business. For example, when the situation is appropriate, Mannetter said, she will sometimes bring a client or two to a public event, to help them work on social skills. Clients may pass out business cards, or put glitter on finished henna tattoos, and thus get to interact with others.
In addition to the social interaction, Mannetter said, she's also had clients work on craft projects with her. Craft projects help give clients a sense of accomplishment.
But what she does is more than just artwork, Mannetter said.
She's working to set up an arrangement where clients could create a product, such as miniatures for fairy gardens, that would be sold at a local business, Mannetter said.
"It's not just ZJ doing art with them, but taking it to the next level, and actually monetizing it," Mannetter said. "We all got to make a living, and if they can make a little profit too that is such a win/win."
Mannetter said she tries to use a "Montessori-inspired approach" to working with clients, trying to help clients find things they're interested in, and helping them use those interests to learn and grow.