When Paladin Inc.’s Industrial Program, which provided job opportunities to people with disabilities in the Region, closed in late August, interim President Kim Latchford went into creative thinking mode in order to continue serving their clients.
“When the program closed, I began thinking of ways my clients could still be independent and have opportunities that enhance their self-esteem and self-worth,” Latchford said. “So, I reached out to St. Andrews Products where I proposed a partnership.”
Rob McFarland, Senior Vice President of St. Andrews Products, immediately loved the idea of this joint venture with Paladin due to their longstanding commitment to serving people in need in La Porte County.
“We have been doing business with Paladin for a long time, so we have always had a special place in our hearts for them and the people they serve,” McFarland said. “So, when Kim and I began working on this partnership between Paladin and St. Andrews, it was one of those situations where this trusting relationship was formed in order to keep this program going.”
“When Rob assured this was going to happen, it made my heart so happy,” Latchford said. “When we have to take a program away, it’s my priority to look for another way for clients to have access to new opportunities right here in our community.”
At St. Andrews, clients work in the manufacturing side of the company doing light assembly and packaging of promotional products for a variety of industries ranging from the golf industry to even putting together backpacks with supplies for students going back to school in the county.
St. Andrews has always prided itself on being an employee-focused company, which made the connection between the two organizations and their missions even stronger.
“St. Andrews has always been concerned about our employees and having a good working and family-like environment for employees to work in,” said Skip Strzelecki, President of St. Andrews. “So, when Paladin’s clients began working here on October 5, they fit right into our company’s culture.”
“It has been a very successful transition where they have learned new skills and acclimated to a new work environment,” Latchford said. “The team at St. Andrews has made the environment so welcoming and supportive. They even made company t-shirts and products for clients with a Paladin and St. Andrews partnership logo and continue to show them just how valued they are at St. Andrews.”
Tami Bolton, who has been a Direct Support Professional with Paladin for 17 years and provides on-site training and support to clients at St. Andrews, shared similar praise for St. Andrews’ commitment to making Paladin’s clients feel like part of the St. Andrews family.
“Our guys have loved working here at St. Andrews,” Bolton said. “They’re excited to have these job opportunities and to be out here working in their community.”
Bolton works closely with clients to make sure they have the necessary supplies and instruction to successfully and correctly complete a job. Her time working with clients at St. Andrews has been rewarding, especially given the uncertainty that closing the Industrial Program brought.
“We went from not knowing if we were going to have jobs for our clients to St. Andrews assuring us that they would take this task on,” she said. “They’ve loved it from day one.”
For Matthew Kier, a Paladin client for over 20 years, his job at St. Andrews has been a perfect fit.
“The products we make are awesome,” Kier said. “It feels good to have a job to go to every day.”
That’s what makes the partnership between Paladin and St. Andrews so important in the community, according to Latchford.
“With our agency as a whole, just being able to provide those job opportunities and training allows our clients to explore and expand their goals of becoming employed in their community,” said Latchford. “We provide them support based on their unique needs in the workplace that they may not get working anywhere else. With this unique partnership, it’s allowing these individuals to have access to that support.”