Giving Back: August 2011 – AtWork!
AtWork! is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that helps people with disabilities be productive, integrated and contributing members of their communities. As a successful social enterprise, AtWork! helps people with disabilities learn marketable skills; find and keep good jobs in the community; and earn wages and benefits that help them escape poverty.
At 50 years old, AtWork! is fiscally strong and growing. To remain strong requires consistent and diverse sources of revenue. AtWork! earns income to fuel its mission by operating unique social enterprises—partnerships with the community and business that have a dual purpose: provide jobs for the people we serve and generate revenue.
AtWork!’s Social Enterprises
The Issaquah Recycling Center is often referred to as the “jewel of Issaquah”. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days per week, the Recycling Center accepts nearly all recyclable commodities, including paper, plastic, cardboard, metal, appliances, CFL light bulbs, and glass. As an E-cycle Washington drop site, we accept computers, monitors, televisions, and peripheral equipment such as mice, keyboards and printers. In partnership with the City of Issaquah, we have created a robust business model. The City’s contract with their garbage hauler includes requirements to divert certain commodities to the center. The City provides financial support and leases the facility to AtWork! at no cost. People with disabilities have jobs and citizens benefit because we can recycle items that cannot be left at the curb.
USArchive Powered by AtWork! provides secure, high quality, comprehensive document management services for government and private firms who seek efficiency and productivity through records digitalization, management and destruction. In 2010, we were looking for a new social enterprise with a profit margin that would generate earned income and provide job training for our clients in a more “high tech” field. We found a for-profit partner, USArchive and Imaging Services, interested in our mission and looking to take their existing document conversion business in a new direction. We combined expertise and resources in a unique relationship that decreased the cost of entering into this new business for AtWork! and brought the technical expertise we need to be competitive.
AtWork!’s Landscaping business provides commercial grounds maintenance, primarily to government organizations. This social enterprise is our largest profit center, contributing earned income that enables us to be more innovative in achieving our mission. We also operate a small packaging and assembly business.
Together, AtWork!’s social enterprises provide both a source of income for the organization and a variety of work opportunities for AtWork! clients. Many AtWork! clients have moved on to find competitive employment in the community using the skills they gained through their experience in one of our social enterprises. Earned income for our enterprises brings the flexibility to be creative, the capacity to serve more people, and the stability to thrive during a tough economy.