Welfare & Subsidiarity
May Fri 28, 2010
Just a few years ago, Guido Piccarolo and Nancy Albin were colleagues employed in successful careers at the Walt Disney Company in Burbank. Today, they head a small 501c3 non-profit corporation, Los Angeles Habilitation House (LAHH), which employs twelve people living with mental disabilities. Their sparse office is housed in the Century Villages at Cabrillo in Long Beach, a complex of housing and agencies serving veterans and others who used to be homeless in Long Beach.
While working in accounting for Disney, Guido was studying non-profit institutions in his MBA program. His interest brought him to visit the Portland Habilitation Center which employs 1,000 people with disabilities. He recalled that the people working on the manufacturing line there were visibly happy. The director, John Murphy, recommended that, along with preparing the non-profit paperwork, he find a partner before embarking on such a venture.
Nancy, a manager of finance in early 2005, needed some time to consider the offer brought back by her friend, which they discussed in a coffee shop over lunch. She had lost friends in 9/11, but the terrible Asian tsunami which had just hit had affected her even more. She asked herself: “What am I doing?” A proposal which would take her away from a secure job was something that required a serious response, just as attending daily Mass together was revealing a correspondence to her heart. With Guido, she explained, there could never be superficiality.
Guido described his work as one which comes from the “desire to shape reality according to love”, a love that has first been received. Others working in disability services were surprised to find that, contrary to the norm, neither of these entrepreneurs had family members with special needs. They wondered what had led them to leave a Fortune 500 company located in the heart of the entertainment industry for such a quest. Guido explained it was the “passion for what is human” that they had received and a “desire to fill life with full love”.
They emphasize that their business is not designed to be a social mission or to solve the problems of disability. Neither have social work experience, although they work with professionals who offer the employees the social skills required to succeed at their tasks. When Guido went to a job fair for the disabled in Los Angeles, he met people struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder after their tours in Iraq, and the experience made him want to fight with them.
The company provides four weeks of "Boot Camp", an on-site job training program in their green janitorial service. They continue to work with the employees for months. Eventually, supervisors and assistants are appointed from the team. The company has five commercial contracts covering 160,000 sq./ft. Another line of work opening up for the new company is the in-house digitalization of documents. It was an opportunity shown to them by others in the field. A third line will specialize in contract close-outs with the Department of Defense.
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