Schaefer Enterprises - Past & Present:
Here at Schaefer Enterprises, we sometimes refer to ourselves as “THE BEST KEPT SECRET.” Although we have been in business for over sixty years, many people only know us as the social services agency that provides services to people with developmental disabilities. It is how we provide those services that isn’t well known to our community.
Schaefer Enterprises began in 1951 when a group of dedicated parents joined together to create a program for children and adults with developmental disabilities. At that time, Weld County schools did not accept children with developmental disabilities and the only alternative for services was the state institution in Denver, Colorado. In an effort to ensure that their children as well as all people with disabilities were able to stay in Weld County, they began a day program and became incorporated through the State of Colorado. On March 17, 1952, the organization officially became incorporated and was known at that time as the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Weld County. The very fist contract that the agency procured was making the beanies for the University of Northern Colorado. (This was done during the time that all universities required their students to wear beanies to identify them as students.)
Although the agency has been through several name changes and upgrades throughout the years, the original philosophy of providing services to people with developmental disabilities so they can continue to live and work in their community remains the same. Some of the people served who were with the agency when it first opened its doors almost sixty-five years ago still receive services from SEI today - a testament to the longevity of the organization.
Schaefer continues to provide day program services to people with disabilities. Although we provide several different types of services to the people we serve, our main focus is and always has been to help our participants to work and earn a pay check. We provide these services in a variety of ways and in a variety of businesses. This is how Schaefer became pegged as “The Best Kept Secret.” Approximately five years ago, Schaefer was notified that Medicaid and State funding would no longer support sheltered workshop services. We had operated our sheltered workshop for 55+ years. Due to this new funding issue, we had to decide how we were going to continue to serve those people who had been in the workshop for several years. More importantly, how were we going to help those people who needed constant supervision to remain safe and healthy to be able to continue working and earning a paycheck. This became our biggest challenge. But once a challenge is known, then you can start over-coming it.
Some of the people chose to stop working and join community connections. We had several other people who were well-past retirement age and wanted to retire and “live the dream.” For them, we began a Senior program. This Senior program was an individualized service. We helped them all join the Greeley Senior Center where they would be with other seniors from Greeley and Weld County. We hired a staff member to go with them each day to the Senior Center and help them to become integrated and complete all of the same activities that the other Seniors completed. This staff person also ensures their health and safety the entire time they are at the Senior Center.
For those people who wanted to continue to work and who needed constant supervision in order to be safe, trying to figure out how to meet their dreams as well as how to keep them safe was the biggest challenge. After looking at every person and in every direction, we made a decision to open up our own community businesses. This was a grand undertaking and it did take the majority of money that we had saved up, but, for the people we serve, our decisions created SUCCESSES for them as well as an improved quality of life.
The businesses we opened included: a Scoop It Up doggy clean-up service, SEI’s Recycling and Baling Center - an electronic recycling business, and our biggest venture - Express Shredding Solutions. As time went on and we had become so successful in the area of recycling, we decided to Go completely Green and began a paper/cardboard baling & recycling service as well as a single stream (plastic, aluminum) recycling service. By the time workshop funding finally ended, our electronic recycling business had grown so much, that we were able to separate it from Schaefer. We found a new building in the community to run it from and then opened up the application process to find employees to work there. This facility hires people with and people without disabilities therefore making it an inclusive environment. This type of service is called an enclave or group supported employment. Everyone who works at SEI’s Recycling and Baling Center has communicated not only their satisfaction with their jobs, but also their pride in what they are doing. Currently, the business has hired a total of 33 employees and as stated earlier, these are people with and without disabilities.
And finally, for those people who did not want any of these opportunities/services but still wanted to work and earn a paycheck, we enrolled them in a new service - PreVocational. We decided to run this service in our Mail Shop and Sub-Contracting Division so that we could teach people the necessary skills to eventually seek community employment. The people served who chose this service did so only because they would be able to continue earning a paycheck.
How did all of these things help us to survive the funding changes? Our new businesses needed employees and we had people who needed and wanted a community job. We hired every person who at that time wanted a community job, but needed supervision to ensure not only their safety, but the safety of those around them. We even have people who know how to drive working in our newest business venture - SEI’s Errand Squad and Courier Services. All of our employees in these community
businesses make minimum wage or above depending on the position they hold. We provide them with job coaching and training to ensure that they become the best employees they can be. They have fully integrated jobs in the community and this has helped them increase their self- esteem and find value in themselves.
All of these things are what makes Schaefer so unique. Everything we did during the three years prior to the end of workshop funding proves that we provided PERSON CENTERED THINKING services before it was mandated to do so. We didn’t fit the person served into a set of services that we made up, we made a service for each individual person served! That is exactly what Person Centered Thinking is about. Developing services to fit the individual’s needs not to fit ours!
As staff of this agency, it is imperative that you understand how important CUSTOMER SERVICE is. We need you to understand that we can not run Schaefer as a social service agency. All of our decisions must be based on sound business practices - both for the people we serve and our community business customers. We have to market our products constantly, make sales calls and ensure that we provide the best customer service we can. We must increase our customers in all of our businesses on a daily basis so that we can keep our businesses, keep our people employed and to be able to continue to develop individualized services.
By 2016, we hope to convert our workshop to an enclave as well so that all people served are served in community employment/non-segregated environments. This is our long range goal, and we will meet it with the help of our staff and the people we serve.
Prior to ending this history, it is important to note an exceptional outcome that we had during 2013- 2014 fiscal year - our mobile shredding business had grown so much during the past five years that we were able to buy a second mobile shredding truck! We are now a two-truck business and were able to add several new shifts and several new employees to the business. This is exactly what we want to see each and every day!Throughout the years, Schaefer has been in many different buildings and began providing a wide-variety of services, but our philosophy has remained the same - to help make sure that people with developmental disabilities can continue to live and work in their own community.