Serving others and improving the quality of life for the people in our communities is a cornerstone of Protective’s identity. Each year, through financial contributions and employee volunteer hours, the Protective Life Foundation reaches and actively serves hundreds of nonprofits, ultimately touching tens of thousands of people in need of help, support and encouragement.
One of those nonprofits is United Ability, formerly United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham. The organization’s mission is to provide innovative services connecting people with disabilities to their communities and empowering individuals to live full and meaningful lives.
Protective has a longstanding relationship with United Ability, from providing employee volunteers to supporting projects such as a state-of-the-art, fully accessible playground for the organization’s Hand in Hand Early Learning Program. The Protective Café has also hired individuals through United Ability’s employment services.
Now Protective is working with United Ability in a way that not only helps the organization and the people it serves but also provides a valuable service. Through its company Gone for Good, United Ability can create jobs for individuals living with disabilities and bring in revenue for the organization by offering secure document destruction and other services to businesses. This service is especially valuable to businesses like Protective that routinely handle information that must be disposed of responsibly.
“At Protective, when you need confidential or sensitive items shredded, you put it in the bin and Gone for Good comes and picks it up and securely shreds it,” says Protective’s Senior Vice President and Chief Risk Officer Michelle Moloney. “They provide people living with disabilities jobs while providing their high quality services at competitive rates. It’s amazing and an easy decision to work with them.”
About Gone for Good
Gone for Good offers document destruction and e-waste recycling. These services are performed by adults with intellectual and physical disabilities. The company is NAID® AAA-certified – the highest document destruction certification available.
Since 2006, Gone for Good has provided opportunities for individuals with disabilities to learn skills and earn income, as well as prepare for future meaningful employment. All profits from the program are used to support programming at United Ability.
The approximately 80 adults who work with Gone for Good not only earn a paycheck and learn work skills, they also develop a sense of independence and purpose.
“You see their faces and see that they are helping support themselves and they have a purpose. I think we all need that – you can see how much that transforms their lives,” Moloney says.
She adds that by working with a company like Gone for Good, “it reinforces a culture that is aligned with our company’s core values. At the end of the day we want to do the right thing. It’s a win-win.”
Gone for Good services include:
• Document destruction
Gone for Good specializes in both onsite and offsite services and works with clients for both one-time purges and recurring services. Document destruction helps keep businesses in compliance with privacy laws and helps protect them from security breaches and potential lawsuits. Customers can also drop off documents to be shredded Monday through Friday (excluding holidays) between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.
• E-waste recycling
Electrical devices and small appliances are among one of the largest pollution sources on Earth. According to Gone for Good, it is estimated that 41.8 million tons of e-waste is produced every year, which leads to more plastic in the oceans, more toxic metals leaching into water and soil, and the need for more landfills to contain these sources of pollution. The EPA estimates that only one million tons of the 11.7 million tons of e-waste generated in the United States is currently being recycled.
Gone for Good dismantles, sorts and diverts the raw materials so they can be used in the manufacture of new products.
The program also reaps benefits for the environment. Gone for Good recycles about 2.5 million pounds of paper annually.
“It’s very important to United Ability that our 750+ customers and every adult employed are positively impacted through this program,” says Alison Berman, United Ability’s Chief Development Officer.
In addition to Gone for Good, United Ability offers bulk mail preparation, packet assembly and item sorting through a program called Outsource Solutions. Employees perform a variety of office and clerical tasks, both at the facility and in the greater Birmingham area. Recent projects have included sampler pack assembly for a large cookie manufacturer, non-sterile surgical kits for St. Vincent’s Hospital, new student orientation kits for UAB and folder correlating for Grandview Hospital.
United Ability Employment Services and Disability Awareness Training
United Ability has been helping connect individuals with jobs for 30 years and currently works with over 1,100 individuals ages 18-60+ on their journey toward meaningful employment. The organization helps job seekers prepare for competitive employment in manufacturing, hospitality, food service, hospitals and other industries. United Ability staff assists every step of the way, from interviewing to onboarding and throughout the life of the job.
“People with disabilities have all the same needs and wants and desires as everybody else,” Berman says. “And that includes meaningful employment.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that while 65.9% of working-age people have a job, only 19.1% of people with disabilities and of working age are employed. In January 2018, the nonprofit organization RespectAbility found that the unemployment rate in Alabama reached an all-time low of 3.7%, while the unemployment rate of individuals with disabilities in Alabama was nearly 73%.
According to United Ability, hiring those with disabilities through their employment services can:
• Increase retention rates
• Enhance morale
• Add value
Additionally, tax credits are available to employers who hire adults with disabilities.
United Ability also provides Disability Awareness Training for businesses who want to learn more about a variety of subjects related to hiring and working with people with disabilities.
“I think our lives get so fast that you forget what’s going on and what other people see and what they’re living through, what their environments are and what their worlds are,” Moloney says. “Having awareness and experiencing some of the challenges that people have opens up your world and makes you slow down, pause, reflect and really come at things from a different light, a different angle and a better, more conscious perspective. It all generates better thinking and better end results.”
Learn More About United Ability
What is now called United Ability was formally established in 1948 to provide services to medically fragile individuals with cerebral palsy.
In 1972 the 501(c)(3) became United Cerebral Palsy of Greater Birmingham (UCP), later evolving to serve the needs of persons living with many types of disabilities in the greater community.
The organization relocated to its current 20-acre campus off Lakeshore Drive in Birmingham in 2001, making it possible to offer multi-disciplinary, comprehensive services to individuals and their families. In 2017, UCP was renamed United Ability to better reflect its service to persons with all types of disability including cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism, Down Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and others.
“We don’t ever want to stop growing with the community because their needs change and we want to grow with them,” Berman says.
United Ability serves individuals and their families from infancy through adulthood with programs such as:
• United Ability Enterprises (Gone for Good and Outsource Solutions)
United Ability has recently served 740 children and families through early intervention and 1,975 patients with its clinic and outpatient therapy. In the last year alone, the organization has provided services to over 5,300 individuals and families through its programs.
“A lot of these families are told that their child or loved one will never be able to walk, never be able to talk, never be able to have a job,” Berman says. “We strive to take away those nevers and help all individuals – and their families – dream new dreams.”
Learn more about United Ability at unitedability.org.