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Sep 12, 2017

Alvis’ Transitions Commercial Cleaning Focused on Job Training & Building Diverse Teams

When Alvis’ Transitions first launched in 2010, the focus was initially to provide opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities with job training and experience in commercial cleaning. When Alvis moved to its current Stella Court location, the organization prioritized the expansion of Transitions, currently one of two social enterprises housed within Alvis.

“We realized that Alvis would need to hire a company for routine cleaning work at Stella Court,” said Ramona Swayne, Alvis’ managing director, social enterprises. “At that same time, we were exploring potential programs to build skills through vocational training.”

The Alvis team began the vetting process with this concept in mind, and put a team together to test the waters to see if commercial cleaning was a truly viable long-term initiative. Alvis’ own properties were the perfect site to pilot the initiative.

Transitions became a formal entity in 2014, and Swayne’s role shifted to oversee both Transitions and Nature’s Touch Landscaping and Lawn Care, Alvis’ second social enterprise. Today, Judy Williams supervises Transitions’ DD Services Team, and Darryl Robinson, Alvis’ social enterprises operations manager, oversees Nature’s Touch Landscaping and Lawn Care, plus a second Transitions team, which is comprised of both correctional and DD Services team members.

“Like any startup, we learned a lot, and fast,” said Swayne. “For example, our team members in Alvis’ developmental disability program have limited hours during the day that they are able to work, and a limited amount of money they can earn because of the benefits they receive through Medicaid.”

Without extending their work hours, Transitions had to identify solutions to accomplish its vision of realizing cleaning teams that comprise both individuals from Alvis’ developmental disability program, as well as justice-involved individuals who are participating in its reentry program.

Empowering populations to change perceptions

Recognizing that the reentry population is stigmatized, and often labeled as ‘takers,’ it became clear to Swayne and Williams how Transitions could leverage the team dynamic as a way for the individuals in the reentry program to develop leadership skills—to be ‘givers’—by mentoring the individuals with developmental disabilities on their team.

“They are responsible for overall quality and the final ‘product’ of the whole team,” said Swayne. “Beyond assigning tasks, they help build rapport, and learn how to influence how the work gets done.”

Transitions landed its first outside contract with a local nonprofit in 2016, and with much success. For this project, they focused on training the reentry team, since the work had to be done at night. Transitions has since grown from a primarily internal initiative to a true social enterprise, and the team has started to more aggressively seek out new business development opportunities throughout the community.

Robinson also has experience as an owner of a cleaning company. He helps train Transitions’ team members in specialty areas, in addition to the basics, to give them a wider range of experience, making them more marketable and able to earn higher wages.

Plans to expand

Earlier this year, Alvis opened its new Community Treatment Center on Livingston Avenue. In response to the opioid epidemic, this center offers drug counseling and treatment programs. It is a non-residential program for not only Alvis’ clients, but also qualified individuals throughout the community. Transitions has added this location to its cleaning portfolio to showcase its offerings to prospective clients throughout Central Ohio, and expand the number of individuals they are able to train on a regular basis. As a result, they have been able to add an individual with developmental disabilities to that team, with plans to continue to expand and realize their vision of developing a diverse workforce.

“Our long-term goals are to increase the number of reentry individuals that get jobs, but then have our reentry folks be in a position to help provide the individuals with developmental disabilities with references and recommendations so that they can get jobs, too,” said Swayne. “Our hope is that they will become a reliable referral source for real employment.”

Today, Transitions employs five individuals, comprised of individuals from both Alvis programs (DD, and Reentry), and 10 individuals with developmental disabilities.

“We are in a good position now to really explore taking on additional external business contracts, and to increase our presence in the cleaning industry throughout Central Ohio,” said Swayne. “Our teams are getting recognized for amazing work they are doing—and that is an amazing byproduct of the positive impact we are making.”

How you can help

If you have a commercial space and are in need of cleaning services, and want to make a positive impact in the lives of these individuals, please contact Ramona Swayne by sending an email to ramona.swayne@alvis180.org.

For more information, visit alvis180.org.

If you are passionate about empowering your purchases to do good, you can view Central Ohio’s 100 plus social enterprises by visiting SocialVentures’ new online Marketplace, where you can filter your view by cause (impact area), such as Employment & Job Training and Individuals with Disabilities. You can also reach out to learn more: info@socialventurescbus.com.