Reporting Lisa Fielding
CHICAGO (CBS) – It might appear to be your average packaging company on Chicago’s North side, but its employees make the Anixter center different from the others.
“All the workers are individuals with disabilities. That’s incredible,” said Al Pennacchio, Director of Industrial Services.
He said the center was born in 1918 as an orphanage for abandoned children, but now it serves low-income and special needs individuals by providing employment, therapy, education services, and housing.
“Anixter Center’s packaging is a packaging business within a social service agency,” Pennacchio said.
Carlos Farmer is one of 80 employees who works 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., five days a week.
“I do all types of jobs but the main thing I’m doing right now is inspecting Comcast,” he said.
Farmer said the job has given him a new lease on life.
“It gives me a chance to be healthy and strong, exercise, it gives me a chance to make extra money to make ends meet,” Farmer said.
Pennacchio said working at the Anixter Center is much more than a job for his employees.
“It gives them self esteem, social skills, employability; all of that is combined into this one area. They react with pride, self esteem and all of the things in a positive worker,” he said.
Each year, the Anixter Center supports approximately 10,000 children, teens and adults with disabilities.
Pennacchio said they learn to use computers and take public transportation; things most people take for granted.
Over the years, Anixter Center has matured into an assemblage of 37 programs that serve over 7,400 children and adults with disabilities.
Each year, at dozens of locations throughout the Chicago region, more than 10,000 children, teens, young adults and adults with disabilities are supported through Anixter Center and its three divisions: CALOR, Chicago Hearing Society and National Lekotek Center. Together these four entities provide 33 programs in five service areas.