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Domtar Customers Provide Employment for Disabled Adults

Categories: Giving Back
AVRE employment for disabled adults

Domtar is proud of the economic impact that all of our clients make through the jobs they create in their communities. But for two of our clients, the impact extends far beyond the local economy. They change lives by offering employment to disabled adults.

AVRE: A Sustainability Story with Heart

Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment President and CEO Ken Fernald, left, works with an employee to convert paper for state and local agencies.

Domtar’s partnership with Association for Vision Rehabilitation and Employment, Inc. (AVRE) began almost two decades ago. In addition to offering vision rehabilitation services and supplies, AVRE creates revenue and jobs for people who are blind or visually impaired through its business division, which offers kitting and assembly operations.

The organization, based in Binghamton, New York, also converts, packages and sells Domtar copy paper and manila folders to federal agencies, New York State government offices and local commercial customers.

Ken Fernald, president and CEO of AVRE, said the organization’s partnership with Domtar is important.

“What keeps us working with Domtar is their commitment to our organization and the commitment they have to the employment of people who are blind,” he said. “They understand what we are trying to accomplish. They get our mission, they look out for our best interests, and they do the right thing every time.”

Fernald, who is legally blind, said companies that offer employment opportunities to people who are blind or visually impaired can help change perceptions among people with sight.

“They see people who are blind working in a modern manufacturing operation, just like anyone else. We have the same product standards, the same quality and the same customer commitment you see anywhere else. It’s just that our people don’t see, or don’t see well,” he said. “Seventy percent of people who are blind are not working at all, so this program is very important.”

In addition to providing paper for conversion, Domtar also works with AVRE to market the sustainability of its private-label paper products. All AVRE copy paper products are sourced from Domtar’s Johnsonburg Mill, which operates a fish hatchery and has helped repopulate wildlife in the region. AVRE’s packaging highlights those accomplishments.

“Our goal is that someone will understand that paper manufacturing is a sustainable process,” said Chris Gagner, Domtar account manager for AVRE. “Domtar is constantly looking for ways to bring value to our customers and to help make the world a better place. If we sell some paper along the way, that’s not a bad thing either.”

People First Industries: Employment for Disabled Adults

People First Industries employees prepare orders of incontinence care products for shipment to state agencies in Oklahoma. The company offers employment to disabled adults.

People First Industries of Bryan County, Inc. provides employment and vocational training to adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Durant, Oklahoma. Its services include assembly, laundry services, janitorial services and document destruction. A major part of its business is the warehousing, packaging and shipment of Domtar incontinence products in partnership with the distributor Concordance Healthcare Solutions.

“Over the past year and a half, our client employees have shipped an estimated 5,000 cases of incontinent products each month throughout Oklahoma,” said Melynda Keeling, contracts administrator for People First Industries. The incontinence products are distributed to children with developmental issues and people of all ages who receive incontinence care products through state agencies.

The relationship with Domtar, which spans nearly a decade, is important to Keeling because it goes above and beyond product sales.

“We teamed up with Domtar’s marketing department to provide a personalized product catalog that helps us achieve our goals and mission,” she said. “Domtar has also helped our program be successful by extending their clinical expertise so that we are knowledgeable of all products and usages. This really helps us troubleshoot any problems our end users may have, and it provides service and product training for our customer service representatives.”

Carol Ann Paikowski Rich, Domtar’s account director for People First Industries, said the incontinence care program brings services full-circle by providing employment to disabled adults.

“They’re packing incontinence products for families in need, so they’re helping others,” she said. “They’re enjoying their work, but it’s not just a job. The whole system as a circle is the best outcome you could ever ask for.”