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Community Spotlight: Friendship Industries

Friendship Industries and Able Solutions helps people overcome barriers to employment.
Published: Feb. 14, 2022 at 12:29 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Friendship Industries, founded in 1964, was the first organization in the community to provide commercial work and training opportunities for people with disabilities.

In 2012, Able Solutions was formed to serve more people who face barriers to the workplace.

While they are two separate nonprofits, they work together with one common goal of building a stronger community while “packaging with a purpose.”

Friendship Industries and Able Solutions use contract packaging services to provide work to people who face barriers to employment.

“Focus a lot on people with disabilities. We don’t like to say disabilities, we say varying abilities,” Dennis Monday, president of the nonprofits, said.

The organizations also work with people who may have been incarcerated or who have limited English-speaking abilities. However, they also have some employees who just enjoy the work.

“They are the type of people that we can do some intensive one-on-one with and keep working with their skills and bring them to a place of independence in the production facility,” Monday said.

But just because the employees are able to work independently, that doesn’t mean they’re working alone.

“We keep our support network in place. We know what the needs are of each individual,” Monday explained.

For those who struggle to work independently and need more consistent one-on-one care, the organizations have partnered with other groups in the community that can offer that type of work.

Friendship Industries and Able Solutions use the work at their facility to help improve people’s overall quality of life going beyond just packaging.

“Try to see what is somebody’s total, true goals in life. If they’re looking for another skillset, something we’re not afraid to do at all is say ‘hey, if you want this job over here, let us help you get that type of training,’” Monday said.

The organizations’ Personal Improvement Center helps employees find that training and connects them to other resources in the community, like housing or transportation.

Learning new skills, becoming independent and overcoming those barriers to employment has led to people feeling more confident and having a sense of dignity.

“To be able to say, ‘I can work anywhere in this place. I do my job.’ That’s what you’ll hear all the time is, ‘I do my job. I work.’ It’s really fulfilling to be able to see that kind of satisfaction in someone’s face,” Monday said.

But he added that they wouldn’t be able to do this work without the support from the community.

“We’re looking forward to the Great Community Give coming up. Packaging for us can only go so far. It’s our partnerships in the community that we really value and that have really helped this place survive for all this time,” Monday said.

That has been challenging over the last couple of years with the pandemic and now as they struggle with supply chain shortages.

“If you’re going to the grocery store and see empty shelves, you can imagine if you have a commercial packaging group right now what it’s like to think a truck is going to show up at 8:00 for your people to have work and then at noon the truck is still not there or even the next day,” Monday said.

If you would like to get involved or learn more about Friendship Industries and Able Solutions, you can go to friendship-industries.com.

From July to September, the nonprofits are always looking for some temporary employees as they work to fill a major order to ship to France.

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