MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A local company has successfully integrated a group of developmentally disabled young adults into its work environment.

The associates are not cleaning up or recycling they are performing jobs.

Jobs that are crucial to the operation of the business.
United Hardware works with eQuality to find workers who have the skills necessary to be successful in an office setting.

It’s a match that benefits both the company and its associates.

“How many copies have you made in this room my friend, right now that stands at 3,874,599,” said Dean Kennedy Brown.

Brown is legally blind but he’s run the copy room here at United Hardware/Hardware Hanks Corporate Headquarters for the past year and a half.

“Did I also mention the 212 ink cartridges that I’ve gone through since I started here?” Brown said.

Brown is one of eight associates, with developmental disabilities, who work for Hardware Hank.

“My associates that are working here are always happy, are always excited to be here. They rarely miss a day of work,” said Rosie LaBree.

Communications Director LaBree said her associates use what they are good at to help the company.

“I’m putting these orders in separate things,” said Andrew Moerke.

Moerke is good with alphabetizing and numbering.

“We can give him a stack of dealer invoices or store labels and he can quickly put them into numerical order,” LaBree said.

eQuality Program Director Carlie LeBree places associates in jobs according to their skills.

“So being able to offer them clerical task computers with printers and alphabetizing things they like to do and they are good at it, makes them feel like they are more valuable,” LaBree said.

A value that can only be measured in smiles.

“Maybe you guys should do a follow up for when I hit a hundred million copies later on in a few days,” Brown said.

The workers are recommended by their case workers.

They become eligible after high school when they enter vocational or day programs.

eQuality said its “pathways to potential” program is “person centered,” focused on what the associates can do that will help the company.

There are a few companies that only allow people with developmental disabilities to clean up.

United Hardware hopes it’s success will spark other companies to follow suit, and give an opportunity to people who really want to utilize their talents in the workplace.


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