Public “Grand Opening” Held for Donation Processing Center
Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania recently celebrated its efforts to change the landscape of the way individuals in the community with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are hired and trained. A grand opening of Goodwill’s Lawrenceville Donation Processing Center (DPC) was held on Tuesday, October 3 to introduce this new integrated employment concept and to recognize Goodwill’s supporters, contributors, partners and employees for their role in its success to date.
Bill Flanagan was the Master of Ceremonies for the grand opening. He introduced Don Clark, Deputy Director, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, who provided the keynote address. Remarks were given by Michael J. Smith, President/CEO, Goodwill SWPA and Jennifer Tinivell, a DPC employee. Also at the event, the Change Agent Award was presented to Goodwill Employee Brandon Dean, and Employer Leadership Award to Eat’n Park.
Visitors at the grand opening learned about Goodwill’s transformation away from a traditional sheltered workshop model that served individuals with the most significant I/DDs to a model that provides an integrated workforce for people with various employment barriers, including I/DDs, to work together. All of these employees are being paid minimum wage or better.
“Our ultimate dream and vision is a world where equal employment opportunities and competitive pay are available for every person with a disability, from receptive and enlightened communities,” said Michael J. Smith, President/CEO, Goodwill SWPA.
As part of this vision, Goodwill has moved from soliciting work from area businesses, to hiring participants in the Donation Processing Center to sort and process materials donated for sale in its retail stores. The DPC is initially focusing on book and clothing processing; however, as capacity increases, employees may also process housewares and linens.
The DPC provides items for sale in Goodwill stores while offering employees tasks that are systematic and routine, which is well-suited to some individuals with disabilities and other employment barriers. The jobs include material handlers, donation sorters, donation taggers, donation hangers, book sorters and book scanners – all based on workers’ abilities.
Employment at the DPC is open to anyone who is interested, including I/DD program participants, work services clients, workers from reintegration programs, veterans or anyone receiving services through other Goodwill programs.
“Transformation can be powerful and is often so elusive,” said Smith. “In the end, though, it is really the simplest concepts that sometimes challenge us the most. We’re all the same.”
Flanagan echoed these sentiments in a toast at the end of the event.
“We are especially grateful to the people who now have jobs that pay competitively, and work side by side with co-workers regardless of disability,” Flanagan said. “Today, we have planted a tree and look forward to watching it grow.”
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