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The employees of SWI Industrial Solutions each weekday produce hundreds of Easter eggs, package items, build bed frames and assemble kits for a variety of businesses.
The organization, located in a shady spot on Bennett Street in Southwest Springfield, changed its name at the first of the year from Springfield Workshop.
The non-profit employs people with developmental disabilities. 237 people work there now ranging in age from 17 to 71.
CEO Larry Leek says they created the Sunny Bunny Easter Egg Company so even those with limited capabilities could work…
"We still wanted them to be able to have a job and feel like they're productive and earn a paycheck and so it has been a wonderful, wonderful venture for us. But then we have individuals who look just as average as you and I do walking down the street, and they have much higher abilities and so we have work on the floor--that's what we seek when we go out and look for subcontracting work--that you'd find anywhere, and really, to be honest with you, we haven't put anything in front of our individuals that they cannot do," Leek said.
The new name, Leek says, better reflects what the organization does and clears up any confusion business owners might have…
"As we go out and talk to business and industry, trying to find subcontracting work, there was always, we felt like, misconceptions that we came across, lots of questions. People didn't really understand the capabilities of the individuals we have working here, and, in the long run, really what we do is we're providing solutions to business and industry and we thought, 'what better way to, you know, describe who we are and what we do than to change our name,' and we've retained the SWI, which is Springfield Workshop, Inc., and then added Industrial Solutions," he said.
Leek says as a non-profit they get a small amount of funding from the Missouri Department of Education and from Greene County’s Ability First board but most of their revenue comes from what they produce as a subcontractor.
He says, while the pay that workers receive is important, being around others is extremely beneficial, too…
"For many of these individuals, they're not going to be able to go out and seek competitive employment and actually find a job somewhere in our community because of their disabilities, but here it's like they're not disabled. It's a level playing field. They can compete right against the next person, and it's fulfilling for them," he said.
Springfield Workshop was started in 1964 by a group of parents who wanted a better future for their children.
There are 91 similar facilities in Missouri, and Leek says, of those, SWI Industrial Solutions is the 5thlargest.