When it comes to giving, many people are happy to donate time or money to benefit charities for children or animals. While those are organizations indeed have worthy benefactors, the adults in our community are often overlooked. Many will ooh and ah over babies and fluffy puppies, but most do not know what to say when around an adult with disabilities.
This past year during our search for our 2018 DFW Nonprofit Champion recipient, we uncovered a number of worthy candidates, but the final winner knows exactly how they can help bridge the gap of helping those adults in our community. They have been providing, for almost 40 years, a way to maximize the independence, earning potential and social skills of their clients who are part of this segment in our community. They seek area businesses who have tasks in the manufacturing or packaging operations that could be done by their clients and provide work for them through the interested businesses.
During our research to identify this year’s winner, we found North Texas to be a very special place with many warm and caring souls working day and night to help those in need. It was an amazingly difficult decision, but our 2018 DFW Nonprofit Champion is awarded to EXPANCO.
EXPANCO is a nonprofit agency that provides vocational opportunities for adults with disabilities, who they call their clients. They provide business services, and support their operations through a competitive packaging / assembly plant in Fort Worth.
During my interview with Dena Walts, Vice President of Operations, for EXPANCO, I heard so many powerful stories about their organization. One such story involved a 48-year-old woman, we’ll call her Edith for the purpose of this article. Edith is confined to a wheel chair and is non-verbal yet has been working at EXPANCO for 15 years!
The astonishing part of the stories that were told was the description of the amazing environment EXPANCO provides for its’ clients. These folks show up each day, happy and excited to be at work. They don’t have attendance problems. They don’t complain about their jobs or talk back to their supervisors. Additionally, they take care of each other in every way.
For instance, Edith, as I mentioned before, has issues opening her own food packaging at lunch due to her disability. No one there is assigned to assist her, but the hearts of these clients are so large that they just do it naturally and with a smile on their faces. How wonderful is that reality? Divided Americans could learn a great deal about coming together to help each other from just the little bit I observed.
The ability to overcome adversity is an important characteristic of any champion. On the road to any championship, there are going to be difficulties that have to be conquered. For EXPANCO, it has been a drop off in work tasks available for their clients. As a result, they had to make the tough decision to scale back their staff.
They decided to increase their efforts in fundraising to help sustain their organization. They came together to raise money during North Texas Giving Day, their second year participating. The funds raised are to be used for building maintenance. Even though they were short staffed, their team came together with their clients help and stuffed mail outs for the big day. Not only did they hit their goal, they doubled it! Dena expressed how even after they hit their goal she kept checking the site and was overwhelmed at how much they were able to raise. They mailed information to their customers, vendors, group homes and even sent mail outs with their clients.
They’re proud of their clients. They get a chance to enable those in need be proactive in society. They don’t worry about attendance and bad moral, they get the chance to see happy people who want to be there and work. They are able to hit customer deadlines, use safety precautions requested by their customers and all with a smile. They say there are 160 languages throughout their clients, each being unique to the person’s disability. They don’t publicly promote that they are a nonprofit organization, nor that they have clients with disabilities. They focus on the jobs their customers give them. They treat their nonprofit as a regular business, and their success shows it works for them and their clients.
Because of their dedication to their clients, their success around their unique business model, and their ability to overcome difficulties with a winning attitude, we are thrilled to have EXPANCO as our inaugural DFW Nonprofit Champion!