Whenever a business or organization is launched, the goal is usually to grow the enterprise and have a greater reach over time.
Extraordinary Ventures New York (EVNY) is achieving that objective quite successfully.
The Mount Kisco-based nonprofit, which brings employment opportunities to adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, has expanded from a few employees to a staff of more than 20 in a little more than a year, said Andrew Tedder, EVNY’s executive director.
EVNY provides laundry and shredding services, candle-making and various gifts for the public, exclusively using adults who are on the spectrum or have other disabilities. Only Tedder, who has a son with special needs, and floor supervisor and manager of the organization’s gift business Noelle Cordero, who has worked for Community Based Services, are not part of that population.
“We have more people that are able to expand their skillsets, work in a more integrated environment and we’re so happy to be a vehicle for that,” Tedder said.
The organization was started about four years ago by members of the local community whose now-grown children have required special services for various disabilities. In 2017, the storefront at 350 Lexington Ave. (the space is accessible through the back parking lot off of Columbus Avenue) was opened to begin the laundry and gift services.
Each employee, supported by their jobs coach, works one to three times a week, typically for an hour or two at a time. Not only does each worker get paid – they must punch in when they arrive for a shift and punch out upon leaving – but it provides them a boost of much-needed self-esteem.
Tedder estimates that since they started the laundry service, called EV Laundry, the volume of work has quadrupled. For $25 for a large bag of laundry brought in by a community member, the EVNY employees wash, dry and fold the clothes for the customers.
Extraordinary Ventures’ EV Office Solutions was retained to do the shredding for a major law firm, a coup for the organization.
“We’ve done large shredding jobs, 40, 50 boxes, for other nonprofits, we’ve done it for a white shoe law firm,” Tedder said. “So, as a retiring partner is leaving, it’s a big deal. We had to interview for that job. It’s very official. We have to send a certificate of destruction. It’s no small thing.”
They have arranged with the Village of Mount Kisco to bring the large volumes of shredded paper to its nearby recycling area at convenient times for the village.
Other jobs include being sought out by a new Long Island-based candlemaker who creates his own scents and collating materials for Northern Westchester Hospital’s maternity ward.
The candlemaker has sent enough materials to make 20 candles for each of his 12 fragrances.
Another step forward came when the sisters of two EVNY employees put in requests to have the organization create candles and other gifts for their weddings.
With the added responsibilities, it makes Tedder’s job more challenging but also more gratifying.
“I don’t want to have more work than I have people,” he said. “I don’t want to have more people with no work to do. I’m always balancing the business like that.”
Cordero said the work with EVNY has been incredibly rewarding for her but also for those adults who might otherwise have trouble finding a job and contributing to their communities.
“We have individuals that are not going to be easily employed out there and I think it’s that much more rewarding when they’re done with the day, when they’ve finished their task because we know in the real world, quote unquote, it’s not that easy for them,” Cordero said.
In the two years, since EVNY launched its jobs program, there have been resounding success stories. One employee, Alex, who functioned at a high enough level to be able to deliver the laundry to customers, obtained his commercial drivers license and was hired away for a fulltime job elsewhere, Tedder said.
Another worker brought to EVNY had no interest in participating, started with very short shifts and has been adapting to longer work hours.
“I think that’s as much a success story as Alex getting his driver’s license,” Tedder said. “This guy grew, he grew and he learned. That’s the main thing. It’s real work.”
For more information on Extraordinary Ventures New York, visit www.evny.org.