TradeWinds change direction with COVID-19 response

By Jason Golden

On a normal day, TradeWinds Services offers numerous vital programs that make a difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities. These include adult day services, childcare, employment services, integrated workshops, group homes, services for the deaf, respite services and waiver services.

Responding to a pandemic across the Merrillville, Indiana community where the organization is located was not included in the list of services that TradeWinds CEO Jon Gold expected to provide. However, responding to the COVID-19 crisis is exactly what TradeWinds has done.

Irma Cervantes sews personal protective equipment during the response to COVID-19

TradeWinds is one of approximately 750 nonprofit organizations in the SourceAmerica® network. This network employs more than 90,000 people with disabilities nationwide, many of them through the U.S. AbilityOne® Program, which is one of the largest sources of employment in the United States for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.

TradeWinds was one of SourceAmerica's first member nonprofit agencies to pivot toward the manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Gold explained, "On our production side, we have completely retooled our operation in order to meet a growing demand for gowns and masks. We went from an 'idea' to actual production in less than one week. Things have been moving extremely fast around here and everyone has been stepping up to the plate for our community."

The health and safety of employees is paramount to the organization's path forward during the pandemic. "We are limiting the amount of people in and out of our group homes and at our main center in order to limit everyone's exposure," Gold said. "We are practicing social distancing in our main center. We are also constantly sanitizing the building throughout the day and have has much staff as possible working from home. At all of these locations we are also taking everyone's temperature before they enter. Our number one concern is our clients, many of which have underlying conditions and we have taken extra precautions in order to protect them."

TradeWinds employees with disabilities are extremely important in the fight against COVID-19. They are producing vital products that help first responders to protect them against this virus. These same staff members are getting used to new norms in today’s world -- like social distancing. Work areas have been spread out and people are working in shifts in the organization's group homes in order to limit the amount of traffic in and out.

Migal Giden, who is employed with TradeWinds through the AbilityOne Program, is a member of the team tasked with sewing face masks. He understands the impact he is making. "I am very proud that I am able to help my community in this time of need."

Migal Giden, create face masks for first responders and medical workers on April 6, 2020

For Giden, who has been with TradeWinds for over 20 years, taking pride in his work is what motivates him the most. "The most important thing about my job is making sure that quality standards are met in order to fully protect our hospital workers and first responders."

Lynn Strohl, Director of Industries added, "My team is dedicated to helping our community during this hard time. We have been working long and stressful hours to provide everything that is needed to help those who need it most and no one has complained once. Everyone is affected by this in one way or another and everyone feels like it's their duty to help."

Other nonprofit organizations across the nation are following suit by utilizing existing resources to create PPE. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offered up new guidelines in early April for all Americans to wear face masks when they are unable to socially distance themselves in public areas. TradeWinds' capacity to pivot toward PPE manufacturing to support the overarching response to COVID-19 is the type of response that is needed during this national time of crisis.

SourceAmerica and its network of nonprofit organizations are providing services and results for vital needs across the nation during this crisis. To learn more about how your company or nonprofit can partner with SourceAmerica, contact customerservice@sourceamerica.org.