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.”