A substantial manufacturing operation in Cottonwood, Minn. that’s owned by the largest cabinet manufacturer in the world now employees 25 individuals with disabilities, and works in partnership with Advance Opportunities in Marshall.
Midcontinent Cabinetry hired the employees, who are fully integrated with workers without disabilities, and are paid more than $10 an hour. The company makes custom, high-quality cabinets for homes.
The hiring process began through a personal connection between Midcontinent’s founder and a 38-year staff member from Advance Opportunities early in 2015. The company needed help to fill open positions. “Teams went into motion to make staffing, transportation and schedule changes to open the door for this great opportunity that would positively affect so many individuals,” explains Advance Opportunities Executive Director Dawn Wambeke.
Almost two years later, the 25 individuals are working in a variety of jobs after starting with barcode scanning, clipping labels and hole-punching doors. Duties were expanded to include baling cardboard and cleaning bathrooms and break rooms. To accommodate schedules, four-day shifts were split in half, and all employees work part-time, each in a position that matches individual strengths and abilities. Job coaches are on-site to help employees as needed.
“I like the job and feel happy when I’m there,” says Patrick, an employee known for his enthusiasm and outgoing nature. His favorite task is hole-punching, because he’s moving around the whole time and not standing in one place.
Racquel Rolla, Midcontinent human resources manager, said the employees referred by Advance Opportunities have been amazing and have even changed the company’s culture, as the group brings positive attitudes and a willingness to help. “They are excited to be at work and want to do a good job.”
Another employee placed through Advance has found her niche in precisely matching drawer and door fronts to numbered carts, works the afternoon shift four days a week. Danica said her favorite part is “meeting new people and everyone working together.” Her friendly personality and position have helped her to make lasting connections with coworkers.
A job coach, Deb, said that in her 30-year career working with people with disabilities, one of her goals was to gain greater acceptance in the community for each individual. “I feel their acceptance at Midcontinent has fulfilled that goal for me.”
The successful connection of Advance Opportunities and Midcontinent Cabinetry has been mutual, and the story of the partnership has been shared throughout the community. It has sparked other businesses to learn more about the benefits of hiring employees with disabilities.