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NACDS Annual Meeting Product Box program brings joy, purpose to nonprofit

The NACDS Annual Meeting Product Box program has been a springboard for clients of the Palm Beach Habilitation Center, now The Arc of Palm Beach County, to find employment off-site and in the Palm Beach County community.

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores Annual Meeting will once again serve as the setting for a partnership with the Palm Beach Habilitation Center, now The Arc of Palm Beach County, to bring joy and purpose to adults with disabilities.

The NACDS Annual Meeting not only brings together the industry’s most influential business leaders to connect, engage, learn and seize the future, it also provides an opportunity for members of the Palm Beach, Fla., community to deliver one-of-a-kind products to conference attendees.

For more than 30 years, the Palm Beach Habilitation Center, which serves adults with disabilities by offering employment, recreational and residential services, has partnered with NACDS to compile Product Boxes containing offerings from NACDS supplier members that are then sent out to Annual Meeting attendees after the event.

In January 2022, the Habilitation Center joined forces with The Arc of Palm Beach County and Seagull Services to create the most comprehensive continuum of services for people with disabilities in South Florida, and to provide more programs that promote individual independence.

[Read more: Product showcase: New product and service innovations for attendees to see at NACDS Annual]

Together, the three agencies bring more than 165 years of dedication to improving the lives of people with disabilities, supporting their families and fostering the relationships that will help their clients succeed. Now, the collective agencies are The Arc of Palm Beach County.

In describing the long-standing partnership that exists with NACDS, Dayna Morgan, senior director of client services at The Arc of Palm Beach County, said of the Annual Meeting Product Box program, “The NACDS job brings joy. Our clients always look forward to it. They love it because they are working as a team — there’s even a light level of competition. The job brings out the best in people. It brings out clients’ skills and teamwork and allows them to work together with staff in a way they don’t normally get to do.”

The Annual Meeting Product Box program employs more than 50 individuals who fill product boxes with 100 to 150 NACDS-member supplier offerings each year, a process which moves through two buildings and 20 staging, stuffing and packing stations, all to the beat of the stereo.

The “NACDS job” isn’t just a fun, collaborative project for clients, however.

[Read more: NACDS announces speakers for upcoming in-person Annual Meeting]

The agency’s vision is an “inclusive community where individuals with disabilities can realize their full potential and contribute to the community in personally meaningful ways,” according to Morgan. The Annual Meeting Product Box program has been a key contributor to that vision; a springboard for clients to find employment off-site and in the Palm Beach County community, she said.

For example, one client — who is in a wheelchair and has been with the agency since 1995 — used the skills he acquired from working on the Annual Meeting Product Box program and similar projects to gain employment at Office Max (where he was named employee of the month — twice).

Another individual went on to work at The Palm Beach Kennel Club as a floor attendant, where he is responsible for keeping the area clean and organizing the equipment.

Like NACDS, The Arc of Palm Beach County places a strong emphasis on the value of relationships and its vital role in clients’ ability to work and to thrive.

[Read more: NACDS receives ASAE's 2021 Power of A Gold award]

“We are all about community, about having a place to go every day, about having those relationships and a sense of purpose. We learn more from the people we serve than they learn from us,” said Danielle Hanson, chief development officer at The Arc of Palm Beach County.

As a result, the COVID pandemic posed a unique challenge for the individuals they serve. Clients had to remain at home and were unable to interact with peers or work.

“We tried to do the ‘virtual thing,’ but we are in the people business. Our clients thrive on relationships and connection. It’s hard when people have special needs,” Morgan said.

Fortunately, six short weeks after the onset of COVID, clients were able to return to the Center and enjoy a safe and effective setting. By March 2021, the agency was providing COVID-19 vaccinations to clients and families, and educating them about the importance of vaccination.

Now, with operations returning to their pre-pandemic normal, The Arc of Palm Beach County is gearing up for this year’s Annual Meeting Product Boxes, which clients produce in four days or less, and is looking for additional partnerships with employers to get more clients out in the Palm Beach community.

“The partnerships are a win-win for businesses: We bring trained individuals to businesses and clients have the opportunity for meaningful work,” Hanson said.

“We are all about independence and inclusion, and putting people first,” Morgan said. “The NACDS job gives clients the opportunity to use their differences and skills, and we help train them so that they’re ready to go out and make their own unique and valuable contributions to society.”

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