Non-Profit Fundraising Season Kicks Off

Dozens of non-profit agencies in East Texas have lost thousands of dollars in funding since September 11th. The United Way is hoping East Texans will help them fill the financial gap. The group kicked of its annual fundraising campaign in Bergfeld Park Thursday.

One of 23 agencies affected by the loss is "Opportunities in Tyler Inc." A division of Goodwill Industries, the agency gives jobs to mentally disabled workers while providing cost-effective labor for local companies. The workers take over work-intensive jobs that companies have a hard time completing.

For instance, employee Nicole Gonzalez works 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., peeling plastic layers from excess rubber spools. The spools come from Kelly Springfield's tire production. When the company reaches a certain point, the spool is no longer beneficial and is just a mass of plastic and rubber. But workers at Opportunities in Tyler get paid by the hour to separate the rubber and plastic. The rubber is then recycled.

"It gives me a chance to make money," says Gonzalez. "And it gives me an opportunity to do something that I'm good at."

At the end of the day, Nicole has a paycheck, and Kelly Springfield has saved money. But, the real beauty is that 92 mentally challenged people have jobs here, jobs they would not have otherwise.

Directors at Opportunities in Tyler would like to offer even more jobs to workers like Nicole, but need more money.

"Funding is key, the key to everything," says director Gary Hall. "It's the key for existence."

Employees also take pride in odd jobs like packaging plastic bag strings or putting together play-kits piece by piece.

"I see a pride there," adds Hall. "I see a dedication and loyalty, things that are almost lost in today's society."

Hall hopes more donors will create more jobs. Part of the organization's money comes from United Way. The rest comes from local donors and participating business like Trane, Tyler Pipe and Kelly Springfield.

The workers are not in it for money or benefits. It's about finding value in things that others have passed on.