Community Partnership Creates Jobs for Disabled, Provides Service for Montana Business
It started at an ice rink. A conversation between a hockey coach/entrepreneur and a hockey dad/CEO has resulted in a partnership that provides jobs for Missoula’s developmentally disabled population and helps a local business package Made-in-Montana products in travel-friendly and sustainably assembled mailing tubes to ship to locations throughout the world.
After hockey practice one day, Greg Robitaille, high school varsity coach and president of Xplorer Maps, had a conversation with Josh Kendrick, hockey dad and CEO of Opportunity Resources, a nonprofit that serves 1,500 people in Western Montana with disabilities. Robitaille was trying to solve a pain point for his Missoula-based company. How could he customize the packaging for Xplorer Maps’ signature product – hand-illustrated maps of national parks and other travel destinations – to make it more efficient and environmentally friendly? And, where could he turn to get assistance with the packaging process?
At the same time, Kendrick was looking to provide employment for the organization’s clients (adults with disabilities). The conversation at the Glacier Ice Rink was the beginning of a “tremendous community partnership that is a win-win for both organizations,” Robitaille said. Over the past six months, Opportunity Resources has prepared thousands of mailing tubes for shipping maps worldwide.
“Providing meaningful and productive jobs for disabled persons is of top importance at Opportunity Resources,” according to Kendrick. Opportunity Resources’ clients work in 75 different places in Missoula, including fast food establishments, the University of Montana, Northwestern Energy, City Hall, the Smoke Jumpers’ Station, and a variety of manufacturing facilities. Opportunity Resources also has a production and assembly area at the main office, where clients work on projects for Missoula businesses.
Before starting the job with Xplorer Maps, Kendrick began to study Robitaille’s process of putting labels on tubes.
Up to this point Robitaille had worked from his garage and storage units, spraying adhesive glue onto map art labels and then applying them onto blank tubes. This process was limiting: the work could only be done safely outdoors – weather permitting – and Robitaille said he worried about the environmental cost of spraying adhesive glue.
After some experimentation, Kendrick’s team created a device that helps roll the labels onto the tubes, omitting the spray glue from the process. Once the process was perfected, Kendrick and his staff began to train the clients on attaching the labels using the new device.
“Our clients really enjoy working on the Xplorer Maps project,” Kendrick said. “The work is detailed and meticulous, and they take their time to ensure that the labels are bubble-free, crease-free and perfect for retail distribution. Our clients take pride in doing a great job and in being instrumental in preparing these fine-art maps for shipping throughout the world.”
For Xplorer Maps, the partnership has many benefits. “The standard of work from Opportunity Resources’ clients has been absolutely excellent, high-quality, professional, and at a pace that we would quite frankly be challenged to achieve on our own,” Robitaille said. “Equally important, this new partnership has eliminated the use on our part of spray adhesive glue in the label application process, which further enhances our efforts to find the most eco-friendly, sustainable, and workplace-friendly environment.”
Additionally, it has allowed Xplorer Maps to focus the team’s efforts on product development and increasing sales. “Admittedly, I was somewhat embarrassed to not only find the perfect answer in my hometown but also from a local business led by a good friend,” Robitaille said.
View the video of Greg Robitaille talking about the partnership:
Top caption: Opportunity Resources clients and staff pictured from left to right are: Mandy McGimpsey (staff), Mike Bader, Candace Toone, Bruce Shedden (staff), Tanya McCoullough, and Eric Stang.
Photo caption: Mike Bader, a client at Opportunity Resources, at work attaching the map art label to the mailing tube.