Embracing Diversity: ISU Recycle Center employs people with disabilities

By: Austin Arceo, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
July 10, 2012

Adam Long is quite familiar with the ISU Recycle Center and his colleagues. He's worked at the facility for about a decade.

But the "veteran of the workforce" hasn't let his time there diminish his enjoyment in his job.

"If he could work more throughout the day, he'd be here," said Mike Padgett, Long's job coach who works with him at the recycling center. "He does not like it whenever he has to take days off. He'd much rather be here."

Long, a confidential paper shredder, is one of more than a half-dozen people with disabilities who work at the recycling center. The facility has partnered with local agencies to employ people with disabilities that include autism, deafness, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome in multiple positions.

"The guys are very dependable, honest and hard-working," said Elizabeth Attebery, supervisor of moving and setup, recycle and waste management. "It means a lot to them to have a job. I've often said that if everyone had that drive, there would be no employee problems in any business anywhere."

The initiative began about 10 years ago, when Long was hired, said Paul Reed, manager of custodial and special services for the university. The effort has grown as more people were hired in different positions. The current employees' part-time schedules vary, ranging from four to 25 hours weekly.

"It's something that we enjoy," Reed said of the initiative. "They have become a part of the work family and are very effective in what they do, and our other employees interact very well with them. They add to us, and we add to them."

The employees also enjoy working there. Brian Allen Wallace started working at the center five years ago. He does a variety of tasks at the facility, which collects recyclables from the Indiana State campus and also has a collections area for community members to drop off items during business hours.

"It's been amazing," Wallace said. "I've worked with them pretty much since I first started working. We work and crack jokes at the same time. It's a lot of fun."

The center's efforts at diversifying its workforce have not gone unnoticed. The Terre Haute Human Relations Commission in September will recognize the recycling center for its hiring practices.

"The ISU Recycling Center provides fair and equal opportunities for employment for all persons in our community," said Jeff Lorick, executive director of the commission. "They have done an exceptional job in hiring persons with disabilities. We find that the hiring practice of the ISU Recycling Center to be extraordinary because it allows everyone an opportunity to experience the American dream."

Long, the recycling center's paper shredder, agreed with Padgett, his job coach, who noted that "a lot of places could do better providing jobs for people with disabilities, having more jobs available."

The program has been well-received by the ISU community, said Reed, who noted that the center's employees get along very well in the chemistry that's been developed over the years.

"They're a part of us. We don't look at them as if they have a disability. They're just normal employees, and it's unfortunate that some people do try to categorize individuals," Reed said. "We all need to appreciate who we are and who they are and work together to try to make everyone feel important and have worth in society and in the workplace."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Indiana-State-University/i-R32ZsDS/0/L/June222012recyclingcenter0999-L.jpg (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Indiana State University Recycling Center employee Adam Long, left, works with job coach Mike Padgett as he shreds paper. Long has worked at the center for about a decade and has enjoyed working at the site. Padgett noted that many organizations can do better to provide jobs for people with disabilities.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Indiana-State-University/i-Q4DrNJz/0/L/June222012recyclingcenter1038-L.jpg (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Indiana State University Recycling Center employee Brian Allen Wallace works at the facility. The center employs more than a half-dozen people with disabilities that include autism, deafness, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Indiana-State-University/i-xNmr7D8/0/L/June222012recyclingcenter1036-L.jpg (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Elizabeth Atteberry

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Indiana-State-University/i-nzSSRhH/0/L/June222012recyclingcenter1091-L.jpg (ISU/Rachel Keyes)Paul Reed

Contact: Paul Reed, manager, custodial and special services, Recycling Center, Indiana State University, 812-237-8197 or paul.reed@indstate.edu

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu