2020 wasn’t easy on anyone. However, one Edmond-based nonprofit organization, in particular, faced several unexpected challenges. Through those challenges, they came together and even made a few new connections along the way.
The Meadows is a nonprofit in Edmond that serves as a Sheltered Workshop fulfilling two purposes:
- They provide data destruction (document shredding) and other business services.
- They provide employment and training services to people with developmental disabilities and permanent brain damage due to trauma injuries.
Executive Director James Hill shared what he and his organization experienced in 2020. “We’ve been blessed, even through this mess,” James said.
First, there was COVID-19
In January, before COVID-19 was widely known in the United States, employees at The Meadows began to get ill. Before James knew it, 25% of his employees were out sick, being tested for the flu and other potential illnesses. One employee ended up in the emergency room, while another ended up in the ICU.
Over the next couple of months, the virus spread within the organization. James wanted to protect his employees and their families as best he could. On March 13, James followed Edmond public schools’ lead and decided to shut down for at least a couple of weeks. Adults with special needs are at higher risk, and COVID-19 could be fatal to some of them.
After being closed for three weeks, The Meadows reopened on April 6. “We added extra precautions,” James shared, “like masks and cutting the workday into two separate shifts.” That had an impact on employee morale. “I feel for my employees because it’s not as social as it used to be, but they’ve adjusted well. I’m so proud of them.”
Soon afterward, James discovered the PPP loan program and decided to apply to lessen the virus’ financial impact. Thankfully, they received the loan, and that helped with payroll. But this was only the first blessing during that time.
Flood damage wreaks havoc
On Memorial Day, James received a call from his landscaper’s wife. She told him that he needed to get to The Meadows because water was everywhere. James quickly left his home and headed to the building.
“I pulled into the driveway, and there was water everywhere. It looked like a lake,” James chuckled. There was water coming out of every side of the building. James soon found the source was an 8-inch pipe connected to a fire hydrant up the street that had collapsed off the foundation of the building.
James walked into the building and saw that water and mud covered all 30,000 square feet. It was so thick that it had washed away a large part of the foundation’s floor.
“I was by myself, and I was just looking at the mess. I was pretty discouraged, so I started praying.” He quickly searched online for a restoration company and found one in Edmond called Express Restoration. He spoke with the owner, Robert Chambers, about the problem. Despite it being Memorial Day, Robert dropped everything and headed over. After examining the property, Robert offered to come back in 20 minutes with his crew, but James declined. James wanted Robert’s team to enjoy the holiday, then take care of it the next day.
Robert asked how James found them, to which James responded, “God and Google.”
The day after Memorial Day, Robert and his crew came back and immediately got to work.
The worry about lost business
Naturally, James was worried about another shutdown. He reached out to an old friend, Justin Whit, who owns another data destruction company, RiteWay Shredding. Justin came to the building to see the damage and visit with James. James asked Justin if he and RiteWay could take on any of their customers during the interim, so they didn’t lose them. James was okay with his customers paying RiteWay during that time.
Instead, Justin offered to securely shred all the documents for The Meadows during that time. For eight weeks, The Meadows continued to provide services and collect the documents that needed to be destroyed, but RiteWay Shredding provided the secure shredding services. Despite Justin and RiteWay Shredding losing a number of clients during that time, he still helped James and The Meadows stay afloat during a difficult time.
“Companies don’t do that for one another—step up in a time of need,” James said. “But [Justin] did! I told my workers they needed to shower this man with thanks because he stepped up and did something in an unprecedented time.”
Though the year had many obstacles, James was able to find the good within it all. “It’s important to find the positive situations even when we are feeling discouraged and want to give up,” James shared. “I won’t say it wasn’t hard. I had some dark days. But there were so many positive things that the Lord conjoined and kept showing up. I can’t praise him enough!”
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About Jackie Bell
Jackie Bell is a digital marketing coordinator at T&S Online Marketing who does writing, editing, and marketing things. Outside of work, she can be found reading a book, writing poetry, or binge-watching one of her many favorite shows. She is an introverted extrovert, and her friendship can be earned with Texas Roadhouse rolls or by simply being a good human.