by Patricia Ames
We are all privileged to work in an industry that has made charitable giving a priority and a core feature of who we are and what our companies are about. It’s such a key part of the fabric of this channel that it is unique and makes this industry stand out. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of examples of individual and collective efforts throughout the year that underscore the commitment to helping others, contributing to efforts to cure diseases, clean our rivers, support our military, aid and comfort the sick, and support our communities in need, including those currently impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Recently, I had a powerful discussion with Jerry Blaine, CEO of LDI Color ToolBox, and Michael Kramer, CEO of The Corporate Source, a not-for-profit that has been providing employment opportunities for people with disabilities for more than 20 years. We discussed the concepts of opportunity and community, and what it could mean in the context of being able to transform lives.
In describing the mission of The Corporate Source, Kramer noted, “one of the things that we found years ago was that when people with disabilities were placed individually in companies, they didn't really have a long tenure of employment. They could be placed in certain positions, but they were not being involved within the company ‘community.’ As a result, Kramer said, “even though they were doing productive and meaningful things in the workplace, they were still somewhat isolated. They didn't have lunch with colleagues, they weren't invited to functions, etc.”
To combat this result, The Corporate Source has found a solution that utilizes an outsourcing model. Companies outsource a function that could include anything from janitorial or landscaping services to managing the operations of the mailrooms, reception or the warehouse, and The Corporate Source will employ both individuals with and without disabilities and establish a long-term cohesive working group that incorporates built-in support.
For Blaine, who serves as chairman of the nonprofit’s board of trustees, it quickly became very clear what impact employment through this model had on individuals’ lives. The change not only in their independence but in their personalities was so evident that it has kept him involved for more than 20 years.
“This is a not-for-profit, but it is also a real business with a serious mission and goal,” said Blaine. “That differentiates the organization and the way the individuals view their employment opportunities. That adds very significantly to their ability to look forward and to value themselves.”
Kramer says they have employees who've been working over 20 years in the same job — the concept of stability and economic independence in their life is paramount. “We have a group of people who were told that they can't compete and now after long-term employment and receiving health care, they're able to amass resources to purchase primary residences for themselves, and live a quality of life that any of us would really wish for our families.”
Since this industry is not only philanthropic, it also believes anything is better with golf, it should come as no surprise that LDI Color ToolBox has been hosting the LDI Golf Invitational fundraiser for The Corporate Source at North Shore Country Club in Glen Head, Long Island for 15 years. Since its inception, this annual event has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, has increased visibility and has resulted in employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
With roughly 150 people attending or playing in the event, it is a major promotional and organizational undertaking for LDI every year. In spite of that, Blaine makes all the effort sound like fun. This year the event is on Monday, September 18, and it’s become quite a hot ticket, with far more people vying for a slot than the actual number available. In addition to golf, food and drinks, contests, prizes and swag, over the years there have been PGA and LPGA Golf Pros and celebrities attending and advocating for the organization.
Ultimately, Blaine said, “What we're looking for out of this is direct involvement from companies who can participate and help the not-for-profit by hiring people with disabilities.” Kramer added “We want this event to be about changing a life. People are used to giving money and they feel that when you give money your obligation is over. What Jerry's really been pushing along with us is to promote opportunity. We’re looking for people to open up their doors and change a life. Once a check is spent and cashed … it's done, but giving somebody an opportunity - it has a much greater and long-lasting impact.”