Founded in 1900, Workshops, Inc., a long-time United Way of Central Alabama partner agency, has helped people with disabilities prepare for, and find, employment throughout its entire 120-year history. And in recent years, the organization has expanded its mission to include helping a broader range of people find jobs that they are well-suited for. This includes working with high school students with disabilities, whom they help transition from school to employment as quickly and smoothly as possible. The organization also helps people both with disabilities and without learn to become better employees through job-readiness classes, hands-on training and development of skills such as communication and resume building Then comes a deeply personalized job search for the best, most compatible opportunities.
Workshops, Inc. also serves clients by employing them to work in-hou
se at the organization as production workers by completing “hand work” projects outsourced from local companies — everything from putting nuts on bolts for manufacturers to folding letters and stuffing envelopes. Additionally, the production workers make handmade products such as fire starters and natural insect repellant for Avondale Mercantile, which is Workshops’ own brand of products. While these jobs may seem small, they are in fact life-changing.
“At Workshops, the job is way more than just a paycheck,” said Executive Director Susan Crow. “A job is a sense of identity, a sense of purpose, a place to fit in.”
Workshops’ clients are so passionate about their employment that, when faced with closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Crow received a letter signed by about half of the production workers requesting the organization to stay open.
“The letter said, ‘Please let Workshops stay open. We just…want the opportunity to work,’” said Crow. “Of course, it tugged on my heartstrings, but it also reminded me how incredible the people are that we serve.”
Workshops, Inc. has been a United Way of Central Alabama partner agency since 1956. “While we are always grateful for our affiliation with United Way, it’s meant more to us perhaps this year than any other,” said Crow. “In a time when everyone is struggling in our community, United Way has helped Workshops, Inc. stay afloat.”