An enclave of Easterseals Arc participants has been at work in a Fort Wayne factory since April, helping to brighten outdoor furniture in the United States and Canada.
Ten people from the Projects Drive Group make up an Easterseals Arc crew that works at the Arden Companies plant, just north of Fort Wayne International Airport. The crew packages outdoor pillows from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. five days a week. Most members of the team work two or three days a week.
They join about 100 other employees at the facility, which includes manufacturing, warehousing and distribution. Like so many businesses, Arden’s Fort Wayne operation can’t find enough employees to perform all the work available. Plant Manager Travis Kinyo said demand is so strong that Arden may not lay off workers in what normally is a seasonal business.
The Easterseals Arc workers pack pillows bound for Canadian Tire, a big box retailer very common in Canada but which has never broken into U.S. retailing with any sustained vigor. Walmart, Lowe’s and Home Depot also are major customers for the plant’s pillows and cushions.
All the cushions and pillows produced there are for outdoor furniture. They could be used indoors, but they withstand moisture, weathering and temperature changes in ways typical indoor cushions could not.
Workers from Easterseals Arc pull pillows from a bin containing hundreds of pillows. They attach identifying tags to the pillows, pack them four at a time in a plastic bag, then lean on the bagged pillows to compress them for compact shipping.
The packers from Easterseals Arc are enjoying the new work.
“I love all the designs of the different pillows,” Ashley said.
“I like working with different people. I like the money!” Molly said.
“You meet new people,” Rose added.
“I like it. I’m a fast worker. I like the pillows,” Ieasha said.
“They’re doing a fantastic job,” said plant manager Kinyo, referring to the workers from Easterseals Arc. “It’s a job with a purpose. It’s very much an important part of what we do.”
Andrea Williams, the Easterseals Arc staff member who works with the crew at Arden, said Arden makes it easy to do good work.
“I think they’re great to work with,” Williams said. “Our area is very open. It makes it easy to do our jobs. They’re very friendly. Whenever we need something, there is somebody to help us.”
In their first few weeks on the job, the Easterseals Arc workers have impressed the plant manager.
“They have a teamwork that is phenomenal,” Kinyo said.