This spring, Discover Goodwill of Southern and Western Colorado (Colorado Springs) began a new service contract with the Colorado Springs Downtown Partnership to clean and maintain the city’s streets, sidewalks and alleyways. Not only is this a new contract, but it’s a new business venture that led to 100 percent of the agency’s Pursuits program graduates being placed in employment. The Pursuits program provides social and vocational training to youth who have cognitive and other disabilities.
“At the end of the 16-week course, two of the five graduates had not yet been placed,” said the Goodwill’s Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Bradd Hafer. “During the program, we discovered that they work diligently and are detail oriented, so they fit the framework of the contract.”
The maintenance and groundskeeping business was a natural offshoot of the Goodwill’s successful custodial contract business. The contract with the Downtown Partnership fell in line with what the agency had been doing, and it used its experience cleaning and maintaining building interiors to take the work outside.
“We’re always thinking ahead of the curve, being progressive and strategic about what businesses we can roll out to the community,” Hafer said.
The agency already had much of the equipment it would need thanks to its custodial business, and it established a “divide and conquer” approach. The contract supervisor assigns each employee to specific blocks so that, over time, the course and process become second nature. Leading up to this fall and winter, the agency will provide ample training on snow removal so that when the first flakes fall, the employees feel confident in their abilities to add on the new task.
“It’s a lot of work, but they’ve really mastered their craft,” Hafer said. “They know where they’re supposed to be and what they’re working on.”
He added that the community has really embraced the program. People downtown know and greet the Goodwill® employees. Business owners compliment the employees’ work and give them beverages or let them cool off inside on hot days. As they have become more confident in their abilities, the employees have gained social skills as well.
“It’s been a really cool opportunity on a social level as well as work development,” Hafer said. “They’re all smiles. They’re loving life.”
Read more about Pursuits graduate and contract employee Allison Morin in The Gazette.