Extraordinary Ventures is a North Carolina-based nonprofit that provides employment and social opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. Recently, the Autism Science Foundation ordered holiday oatmeal jars from EV that helped to employ 4 adults with autism over a span of 14 days. We invited Van Hatchell, Director of Marketing and Communications at Extraordinary Ventures, to write a guest post about the important services Extraordinary Ventures contributes to the ASD community.
Ewan, 23, graduated from Chapel Hill High School and immediately faced the daunting task of finding employment in our country’s tough job market. Like all recent grads, Ewan was forced to deal with the uncertainty of employment. But Ewan is no ordinary high school grad. Ewan has Autism.
For 17 year, Ewan benefited from the structure of the special education classrooms of Chapel Hill City School. Once he graduated, his family realized there was nothing else Ewan was entitled to. He would face the job search like his peers – while bearing the extra burden of his developmental disability.
Ewan volunteered at the University Library, making copies and completing small tasks. His family hoped the library would see the value that Ewan added to their daily work environment and agree to hire him. Months passed with no success.
Then he heard of Extraordinary Ventures, a nonprofit that was exclusively interviewing adults with developmental disabilities. Ewan was hired.
In response to the increasing population of autistic adults, a group of parents in Chapel Hill took charge by taking a non-traditional approach. They set out to start an organization that would start small businesses to employ adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Extraordinary Ventures was born.
I run one of EV’s businesses — EV Gifts. It’s a product-based business that offers gift items. Currently, we manufacture food jars, scented candles and bath salts. We also create custom gifts for businesses’ customer appreciation programs and for families for holidays and weddings. Our scents and designs are high quality, but our main purpose is employment.
My employees, who “run the spectrum,” work in every part of the manufacturing and ordering process. We recognize that each employee brings a different skill set to the table and we work to provide the kind of environment that allows them to use their skills in a real way. For example, some complete more repetitive tasks, like manufacturing and packaging, while our others work on less structured tasks, like decorating and order processing.
Recently, the Autism Science Foundation ordered EV Gifts, oatmeal jars, as holiday thank you gifts for their key volunteers. We were very excited to have their business and their order was our largest to date. The best thing about large orders isn’t the revenue, but the employment. Four of my employees, all with autism, were fully employed for two weeks. Our employees enjoy working because it gives them a sense of purpose and pride in their commitment. Like any adult, a balanced life has a work component. The ASF order provided that work and purpose to the EV Gifts employees, including Ewan.
Ewan was the first hire of my career and the first employee for EV Gifts. EV was his first paying job and he was the first employee to work on the ASF order. ASF’s order provided Ewan with a paying job and the sense of purpose that is so important for every adult. We hope to keep the ball rolling and continue to provide these adults with a safe working environment for them to utilize their skills in a meaningful way.