We have always seen ourselves at Ability Connection as a learning organization. We are not afraid to take reasonable risks as long as it has the potential to benefit our members. We evaluate an opportunity, create a plan, execute and adjust based on what we learn. Such was the case with an opportunity that came to us in March. At the beginning of the pandemic, a few of our members lost their jobs in the community. Serendipitously, around that time, we were approached by a company about some fulfillment work. This company was diversifying and was looking for a partner to assist with a new project. We were asked to assemble and package a ten-piece kit that was to be used to retrofit and improve coin machines for a major retailer. Our contract called for assembling and packaging 7,120 of these kits. Simple eh?…gulp. Well the important thing was that it provided an opportunity for some of our members to work for real wages.

As we near the completion of this contract, and hopefully moving on to more, it is nice to take a step back and reflect on the experience. As the title indicates, some of the challenges and miscues would make great material for a coveted Thursday night sitcom slot. We dramatically underestimated the complexity and volume of some of the tasks which meant we dramatically understated the time it would take and the cost. This required several episodes of “all hands on Deck” where staff from other Ability Connection departments were “voluntold” to help with assembly. We also didn’t realize that the materials needed for the full project would show up all at once until the day several pallets of material were delivered. We filled an entire classroom with the materials and it took several days to sort everything out.

Out of challenges, though, comes greatness. It was such a joy to see the members flourish over these past 20 weeks. Each one embraced their tasks and worked diligently. As we learned more about them, we were able to adapt their work to help them be more productive. The members enrolled as Ability Connection employees and it was a joy to see them work side by side (socially distanced of course) with other Ability Connection staff and enjoy the experience. There was quite a bit of laughter. A couple of the members developed a real “eye” for quality. Our margin for error is very slim and these guys have gotten to the point where they recognize a potential problem before it becomes an error. I have such an appreciation for these members and I believe that this experience will serve them well when they return to work in the community. I will certainly be able to provide a glowing recommendation for these great folks.