United Ability employs over 70 people with disabilities in Birmingham. Find out how they do it.

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The staff of United Ability’s Gone for Good. Abe Bernstein is in the blue shirt in the center. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Several years ago, Abe Bernstein and his wife toured United Ability. A few weeks afterward, he was asked to interview for the Director of Enterprises position, even though he was not looking for a job. After the interview, United Ability gave him the opportunity to join their team.

“I couldn’t turn it down. It was the most fulfilling job I could ever take,” said Bernstein.

What is United Ability Enterprises?

United Ability Enterprises is a comprehensive jobs program that employs about 70 adults with disabilities. Operated out of United Ability’s LINCPoint Adult Day Program, the program carries out four separate elements: Gone for Good document destruction recycling program, electronic recycling, packaging, and kitting.

Here is a profile of each project.

United Ability’s Gone for Good

Gone for Good is United Ability’s flagship enterprise.

If you are looking for secure document destruction and e-waste solution disposal solutions, Gone for Good provides document destruction to over 750 customers throughout the region, including local businesses such as St. Vincent’s Hospital and Sirote Permutt law firm. They can do onsite and offsite shredding, along with a drop-off service (for a charge) from 9:00 to 2:00, Monday through Friday, at Gone For Good’s secure facility located in LINCPoint.

All the documents are processed by adults with disabilities who help remove the clips and stapes, separate the paper and assist with the pickups at local businesses and residences.

Personal Touch

Two of United Ability’s most beloved employees Little Ced and Big Ced. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

It is the personal touch that makes Gone for Good special.

When Bernstein first started his job as director, he wanted to personally travel to the document pickup sites around town. To his surprise, regular customers were disappointed to see him.

“I like to drive around on the routes to get to know the customers and our employees. We left a couple of assistants off of the route that day. The customers were not happy to see me. They wanted to see “Big Ced”. He is a celebrity for sure,” added Bernstein.

Gone for Good Numbers and Where It Goes

In a typical week, Good for Good recycles from 44,000 pounds to 100,000 pounds of paper. They also safely and properly destroy electronics. The operation is AAA NAID Certified, which governs document destruction businesses to make sure items are shredded securely, in a timely manner and properly.

Once the documents are destroyed and processed, United Ability sells the paper to be recycled into toilet paper and paper towels to local recycling plants in Cherokee, Alabama; Natchez, Mississippi; and Ringgold, Georgia.

In Addition to Paper Recycling – Electronics

Gone for Good. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

In addition to paper recycling, Gone for Good also recycles electronics and provides hard drive shredding, with their hard drive shredder. Along with the document destruction, they provide a pickup service and dropoff. While they can recycle anything with a cord, they do not do kitchen appliances.

Packaging and Kits

Two other services United Ability provides under its “Enterprises” umbrella are packaging and kitting.

In the area of packaging, the adults with disabilities at United Ability, employed by Gone For Good, assemble variety packs for a local food manufacturer for distribution in grocery stores.

They also do what is called “kitting” – putting numerous items into a nonsterile “kit” for outpatient services, mostly for St. Vincent’s Hospital, which is one of United Ability’s clients.

“When a patient goes in for surgery there is a package – a gown, urine cup, tubing, and other items,” described Bernstein. Beforehand, they were sending these items to Mexico to package. Now our adults with disabilities do it. It saves St. Vincent’s Outpatient Services program money and provides meaningful employment for our folks.”

Mission Comes First

United Ability Gone for Good. Photo by Pat Byington for Bham Now

United Ability’s Enterprises generates revenue, which is spread throughout the organization, from the children’s programs to the medical clinic and from employment services to the adult day program. However, every business decision is based on making sure the adults with disabilities are taken care of and preparing them for jobs in the community.

“Ultimately we want to find them jobs in the community – that’s our goal. Get them ready for the outside world and work environment. That’s why we do it. An adult with disabilities is the happiest person you will ever see receive a paycheck”, Bernstein said.

“This place is very close to my heart. It’s awesome, concluded Bernstein.

Want to learn more about United Ability Enterprises and Gone for Good? Visit their website at: Unitedability.org

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Pat Byington
Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.
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