SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. - Meaningful employment can provide a person with a sense of purpose and increase their confidence and self-esteem. For those with developmental disabilities, a job and a paycheck can improve their lives in even more profound ways.

The Mount Kisco-based nonprofit Extraordinary Ventures New York that began in 2015 offers work to young adults who live with autism and other challenges and is committed to empowering them. 

Its executive director, Andrew Tedder of South Salem, explained that three distinct businesses were created under one roof and two dozen staff were hired to help operate them.

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“The custom gift business, which started with handcrafted candles (and now includes beaded bracelets), was expanded to other things—mainly, a laundry (wash and fold) service with free pickup and delivery and an ‘office solutions’ company where we shred documents for attorneys, accountants and private people,” Tedder said, adding that the shredded items are brought for recycling.

The services also include collating, packing, scanning and digitizing.  

With the aim of tapping into the potential and talents of people living in the community with autism and other developmental disabilities, the organization’s founders were inspired by the Extraordinary Ventures North Carolina program, which provided the model for the development of the Westchester businesses. 

When Tedder moved to this area 12 years ago, he helped the Prospector movie theater in nearby Ridgefield, Conn., get off the ground. It is an establishment that shares the same mission and goals of EVNY: to employ people with different abilities.

That move followed his long career in retail and sales, as well as a stint as national sales manager of Good Reasons, a dog treats company that employs people from the same population. It made perfect sense for him to join EVNY, a place where he said the metric of success is measured in the number of hours of meaningful employment they can provide. 

The manager and business developer stressed that EVNY is unique in that it is not a “program” for the young adults. “These are actually real businesses—we do interviewing, skill assessment, hiring—this is their paid job,” Tedder said. 

Each member of the EVNY team has the support of a job coach who can provide one-on-one guidance for the work at hand. 

“It is smart, good business to hire these workers. They are excellent, dedicated employees; they value their time with co-workers and they work hard,” he said.

For 28-year-old Mickey Carter, who works in the laundry and office services areas, it is the feeling of accomplishment of learning something new and then, with practice, being able to do it well, that is so rewarding, explained his parents, Marc and Liane Carter. 

“Mickey’s ability to work gives us great optimism for our son’s future happiness,” Marc Carter said. “All parents hope that their adult children will have loving friends, good health, work that is meaningful to them—so they will live the most satisfying, safe lives they can.”

The EVNY staff, who may work one to three times a week, are making a real difference in the lives of people they help, according to Tedder. He described an elderly client who recently lost his wife and had difficulty in getting his laundry chores done when he turned to them for laundry service. Another is a family with eight children who needed relief with their clothes-washing burden.

“I make sure our employees know that they are really helping other people,” Tedder said. “Unfortunately, many of these folks have been asking for help and apologizing their whole lives and it is time for that to stop—it’s important for them to know they can help people, as well.”

To learn more, visit evny.org.