By Madeleine Graham
The coronavirus crisis has created emergency needs to protect people in many sectors of the community. One of those sectors is the nonprofit community employing and serving the disabled.
In the face of those escalating COVID-19 demands, a Flint township nonprofit vocational rehabilitation company, Peckham, Inc, at 3080 S. Linden Rd., is ramping up production to supply nonprofit organizations serving people with disabilities and other barriers.
According to Shavonne Lewis, senior outreach and brand manager for Peckham, nearly 150,000 PPE items are slated to be distributed, “including gowns, N95 masks, sanitizer, thermometers, gloves and more to nearly 30 Michigan-based organizations serving people with disabilities and other barriers.”
The collaborative effort is being implemented in conjunction with Incompass Michigan, a statewide network of human service providers, Lewis said.
Peckham, which already fulfills military gear and clothing contracts for the U.S. military and others, also has been providing protective equipment to Sparrow Hospital in Lansing and essential workers of the State of Michigan.
With five locations in the state, Peckham has produced more than 8,000 personal protection equipment (PPE) gowns so far and also has manufactured more than 5,500 masks to assure the safety of its own employees, many of whom are disabled. About 70 employees work at the Flint Township site.
“‘Personal protective equipment (PPE) has been increasingly difficult to access as COVID-19 continues to spread, adding to the stress of many organizations with staff on the front lines of an already challenging situation,'” Todd Culver, CEO of Incompass Michigan, stated in a press release from Peckham.
Expanding from a 44-year history
Many Flint and Flint Township residents may recall an effort to hire individuals for Peckham’s Flint Township location in the spring of 2019.
The company expanded its manufacturing operations and opened job opportunities for vocational services to individuals with disabilities residing in the greater Flint area.
“Peckham provides people with physical, cognitive, behavioral and socio-economic challenges, a platform to demonstrate their ability, learn new skills, participate in work and enjoy the rewards of their success. Peckham provides opportunities so team members can experience meaningful employment growth,” stated Lewis.
The Flint Township location has “more than 33,000 square feet of manufacturing space and more than 8,000 square feet of office and classroom space,” Lewis said.
Flint Peckham officials say they plan on expanding their workforce. While there are approximately 70 employees with disabilities and other barriers working at the Flint facility, over time, company officials say they anticipate adding up to 200 sewing machine operator job opportunities.
“Working with Army engineers and Goodwill of Miami, the Flint team just completed an important step in an innovative project that will result in faster deployment of the newly configured tactical vest for the Army Warfighter,” Lewis stated.
Transportation to the Flint facility has not been a barrier, as Lewis explained, since most team members drive or use the Your Ride, part of the Mass Transportation Authority (MTA), which has remained operational during the lockdown.
“As an organization, Peckham believes in the strong spirit of the Flint community, and we collaborated with others who believe in the city’s potential to create more pathways to meaningful employment for Flint’s talented workforce,” Lewis commented.
The company services both federal and commercial customers, with strong relationships providing goods and services to the U.S. military, the Defense Logistics Agency, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and more, Lewis added.
Throughout its four decades, the company has provided paid job training and vocational rehabilitation services to about 3,000 individuals a day, with facilities in Lansing, Battle Creek, Grand Rapids, Charlotte, and Flint, with contact centers in Phoenix, Arizona and London, Kentucky.
“We operate five social enterprises, including Manufacturing (apparel), Supply Chain Solutions (warehouses), Environmental Services, Contact Center Solutions (call centers) and Peckham Farms,” Lewis said,
In addition to the tactical vests, Peckham manufactures complex military clothing and gear for the U.S. military.
“We also manufacture garments for commercial customers including Polartec and Patagonia,” Lewis said. “We have more than 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space with 115,000 of that space LEED Silver certified. We have nearly 800 trained team members with disabilities and other barriers who work in our manufacturing operations.”
Steps taken to protect employees and clients
As for COVID-19 responses, the company provides a detailed list of actions adhering to CDC guidelines, but for an overview of those measures taken in response to 11 confirmed cases of individuals with COVID-19, out of the nearly 3,000 served at all of its locations; Lewis provided the following list of precautions currently being taken:
1) Touch points have been cleaned
2) Deep cleaning for the area is scheduled
3) Work will not continue in the area until after it is cleaned
4)Close contacts are being identified and asked to self-quarantine for 14 days since last contact
Additional precautions taken every day to keep Peckham employees safe include:
1) Health screening and temperature checks prior to starting shifts
2) Mid-day temperature checks
3) Additional cleaning/disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces
4) Distancing of workstations
5)Requiring face coverings in all locations
6) Ongoing education as to the importance of hand washing, covering the face when coughing and the importance of social distancing.
Peckham is considered an essential company and as such must continue to operate for the Department of Defense, Lewis clarified.
The physical and mental health of employees remains vitally important, continued Lewis, while continuing to practice safety and health standards, the company is providing mental health and stress-reducing resources to all employees while facing the worldwide pandemic.
A concerted effort has been made to help team members by offering art projects through “our Art from the Heart program, emotional well-being webinars, and a Peckham Wellbeing Facebook page for employees to find local resources and participate in activities and prizes,” explained Lewis.
“‘Peckham is a long-time member of the Association and their support for their peers shows the power of membership–the resilience and strength of our collective network looking out for each other to best serve our most vulnerable citizens,'” he (Culver) said.
“‘We are so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the community of organizations who are looking for ways to help those who are on the front lines,'” according tom Caleb Adams, Peckham chief human services officer quoted in the press release.
EVM Staff Writer Madeleine Graham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.