Facing challenges both mentally and physically, the employees of the Good Shepherd Foundation take pride in the work of their hands and appreciate the ability to complete a meaningful job.
"It makes them feel like they have a normal job just like you and me. It gives them self-worth. It makes them feel like they're wanted and needed and they are. It's very fulfilling for them to have something to do and be a part of the working community," said Sheryl Pealor, the Good Shepherd Foundation operations director.
Local inventor Brad Barrett began seeing increased demand for his product, the GrillGrate, after infomercials and the release of professional reviews made national television. Turning to the aid of the Good Shepherd Foundation, Barrett quickly noticed the quality of their work and mission.
"These people are coming to work every day and they want to work every day and I'll tell you, it's the best workforce I've ever been associated with. And it's a very meaningful work," Barrett said. "This is not just busy work to keep them occupied, it's real, true work and I think it's as rewarding for their people as it is for us as a company to get the benefit of their services.
Initially unaware of the opportunity available from the Good Shepherd Foundation, Barrett was contemplating the future of his company and was nearly forced to move operations out of state before his accountant, Jim Noble, made him aware of their services.
"It was an opportunity for me to keep the business close by, right here in town and keep it under my nose," Barrett said. "I'd never heard of them. ... I didn't know they were here in town.
"I know a lot of other people may not know they're here in town either. So what an opportunity for the local business community to get services in their own backyard."
Barrett's invention uses a "raised rail" design to help grills perform better by eliminating flare ups and increasing moisture retention. The GrillGrate is an interlocking mechanism, packaged and prepared for shipment by laborers at the Good Shepherd Foundation. A specially formed grill tool and instructions are packed with the product, labels are added, then orders are filled and readied for delivery.
"Everyday, they're putting product in boxes then putting FedEx labels on those boxes and helping them go out the door. So they're performing packaging and full pack-and-ship fulfillment stuff for us, too. So it's quite a service they're providing for us," Barrett said.
Work for those at the Good Shepherd Foundation becomes a staple in their life, a constant source of interaction and social engagement that helps to build healthy relationships, said Pealor as she described the work ethic and dedication they demonstrate every day.
"They walk in, they do their job no complaints. It's hot in here, we don't have an air conditioner but they don't complain. They come in they do their jobs, they ask 'what else can I do, who can I help?' It's wonderful. I've told people before, 'If other people in the community could be as devoted to their jobs as these guys are, businesses would not have that many problems,'" Pealor said. "They want to be here everyday, they love their jobs. They're very devoted to being here."
With growing success and increased production demand, Barrett has continually been impressed by the precision and speed with which the Good Shepherd Foundation fulfills orders. Due to warm reception of a national commercial, the GrillGrate has set personal sales records every month this summer. In August, 1,400 orders were sold and shipped from the Bartow County location. To celebrate, Barrett held a cookout for the employees at lunch Friday before they enjoyed a long weekend.
"If any business is growing and needs hands, they owe it to themselves to look up the Good Shepherd Foundation," Barrett said.
Working with each individual's ability, the Good Shepherd Foundation concentrates on their strengths and uses those to show their worth and potential allowing each employee to play a meaningful and necessary role.
"We try to accommodate what their disability is and they're not treated as if they do have a disability. We work around that and try to make it as normal an atmosphere as we possibly can for them to be here," Pealor said. "Each one of the guys that are over there has a certain particular thing that they do. ... So they each have something that they work on each day."
Currently 53 individuals work at the Good Shepherd Foundation, contracts are had with Americo, Coats and Clark and GrillGrate. They also provide a community cardboard recycling service for anyone with excess cardboard. Executive Director Vanessa Garland expressed the desire for more contracts to ensure the employees have work to be done.
"They really need to work, they want to work. This is important to them and if the work is not here, if we don't have the contracts then we don't have that available for them," Garland said. "They are just happy working. Everyone here is glad to be here and they miss it when they don't get to be here and if one of them's out or one of them's sick it's just like part of their family is gone."
To inquire about contracting with the Good Shepherd Foundation for production services or other ways to help, call 770-386-0131.