The Arc adds a new industry to its cottage

The nonprofit just started a printing business

awebb@idahostatesman.comOctober 7, 2013 

1003 local arc

David Bunch has participated in Arc programs for many years. He stacks Buy Idaho directories as they come out of the new printer at The Arc. Staffers say jobs on the printing machine are highly desirable among Arc participants.

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com Buy Photo

  • Inquire about Arc projects, volunteering

    The Arc, Inc. is at 4402 Albion St., Boise. 343-5583.

    - Call Kristen at 422-1756 for printing information and pricing.

    - The Arc is looking for volunteers who have experience programming high-volume printers to help train participants and staff. The Arc is also looking for a donated warehouse space (at least 6,000 square feet) for the box recycling project. Call Nicole at 422-1759.

    - To schedule an Arc donation pick-up: 363-9350.

Step inside The Arc’s airy workroom any weekday and you’ll hear classic rock on the radio. You’ll see Arc participants — men and women with intellectual or developmental disabilities — working. They’re stuffing envelopes or putting labels on bags of the Arc’s homemade B’Arc Bones for dogs. Massive palettes of cardboard, supplies for the Arc’s box recycling project, line the room.

All of this is evidence of the Arc’s mission to teach job and life skills to men and women with disabilities, and to raise money for Arc programs.

About six weeks ago, the Arc added a new project to its job-training roster: an in-house print shop.

“Bessie,” a high-capacity printer, is on lease for $1,200 a month. It fills one of the rooms at the Arc’s campus on the Boise Bench. The Arc staff is trying to bring in enough print jobs each month to pay the lease on Bessie.

So far, things look promising, said Nicole Lang, director of programs at the Arc.

The Arc (which should not be confused with a separate Boise business, Arc Document Solutions) has printed jobs for the Idaho Botanical Garden, Buy Idaho, the Interfaith Sanctuary, Fuzzy Paws animal rescue and local churches.

Jayne Sorrells, director of Interfaith Sanctuary, hired the Arc to print materials for an important clergy luncheon. She was hesitant at first to hire an unknown printer. She took a leap of faith — particularly after Arc representatives hand-delivered a mock up of the job to her office and guaranteed they could produce on time.

The Arc printed the job perfectly, and at a lower price than other printers, said Sorrells.

“Working with a fellow nonprofit and helping provide job service in the community fits with our values,” Sorrells said.

She hopes to one day follow the Arc’s lead and create in-house businesses with job opportunities for the homeless people Interfaith Sanctuary serves.

JOBS AND INCOME

The Arc gets its support from donations, the Idaho Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and other programs. But donations to the Arc — it collects used goods for re-sale at its thrift stores — have fallen precipitously in the last couple of years, said Lang — making it even more urgent for the Arc to find ways to make its own money.

“When the economy turned, people started holding onto their stuff,” said Lang.

The Arc’s entrepreneurial projects also provide opportunities for a work force in need. In August 2013, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities was 14 percent — double that of people without disabilities.

“We want to focus on what we can do for the community, not what the community can do for us,” said Lang.

In addition to the in-house businesses, the Arc can provide janitorial and other off-site services.

The beauty of a project like the print shop is that it has the potential to employ ever-larger numbers of workers as demand and the size of jobs grow.

There are typically 40 Arc participants on the campus each day. About half are in developmental therapy. The others are working.

“There’s a waiting list of willing workers,” said Lang.

“We want to get people off that list.”

The print shop can employ men and women with a range of abilities.

Being able to count, for example, means someone can pack the right amount of printed matter into boxes.

“No matter the task, there’s someone here whose skill matches,” said Lang.

PRINTING TO POOCHES

David Bunch and Levi Blades, both longtime Arc participants, are part of the in-house print crew. Both men live in an assisted living building in the North End and work at the Arc every day.

Like other Arc participants, Bunch and Blades earn wages for their work. The wage for the new printing program is still evolving, said Lang. Wages will be based on each worker’s productivity and other factors.

Workers in the B’Arc Bones dog biscuit business can make more than $10 an hour, and print wages likely will be similar.

A number of local businesses carry the peanut butter treats (now being made in the shape of cats for Halloween), including the shop at the Idaho Humane Society; The Record Exchange recently began carrying the dog treats, which retail for around $5 per bag. The Arc sells between 50 and 75 bags each month, with all proceeds from sales going to Arc programs.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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