Mutual of America
2019 Community Partnership Award Winners
Recycling Avenue
Man holding plastic bin of recycled electronic parts

In the U.S., people with disabilities represent nearly 20 percent of the population, one of the largest minority groups in the country. Yet many of our fellow Americans remain unemployed despite their ability, desire and willingness to contribute to society as household providers, community members and taxpayers.

Avenues to Independence was founded in 1953 to support and encourage people with disabilities to lead the lives they choose, responsibly and with independence and dignity. Today, Avenues serves 200 adults with physical, intellectual and developmental disabilities living in and around northwest Chicago and suburban Cook County. Dedicated to putting aside old ideas of what’s possible, Avenues collaborates with families, community members and local businesses to create new opportunities for clients with disabilities to succeed.

In 2007, Avenues launched the Recycling Avenue program, which enables participants to earn a paycheck through the recycling of electronic and household items. Created to help two physically challenged clients achieve their goal of having meaningful work, Recycling Avenue now has approximately three dozen participants working to sort and categorize donated items. eWorks Electronic Services, Inc., a provider of secure and environmentally safe electronics recycling, helps Recycling Avenue ensure that toxins in electronics batteries do not become pollutants and that usable electronics stay out of landfills.

Once donated items are sorted, Recycling Avenue participants have the option to take items that are in good working order and list them for sale on their individual eBay sites. The money they receive becomes their income, providing them with control over their earning potential.

“Today, Recycling Avenue is one of only a few programs in the greater Chicago area that provides green-collar jobs for women and persons with disabilities,” said Michele Shoolin, Vice President of Development for Avenues to Independence. “To date, we’ve diverted more than 55 tons of electronics from landfills, creating greater environmental stability for our community. At the same time, Recycling Avenue is helping to empower people with disabilities to reach their highest potential, making it a win for all.”

Avenues to Independence
Recycling Avenue
eWorks Electronic Services, Inc.