Tampa, Florida -- Budget cuts have hit a lot of non-profit agencies pretty hard over the years, especially agencies that serve the developmentally disabled of our community.
For the MacDonald Training Center in Tampa, cuts over the last several years have amounted to more than $1 million.
"The state cuts have been a lot greater than we anticipated. We anticipated anywhere from 8-10% and right now they stand at 22%," explained Jim Freyvogel, CEO and President of MacDonald Training Center, or MTC.
But, they saw it coming six years ago and worked to change their business model into a business enterprise.
MTC hired people with a background in business to set out to find a way to generate money while providing a valuable service to the disabled.
They found it by creating a business solutions model, providing light manufacturing, packaging and sewing for companies looking to get their products out to you.
The first big contract was SunPass.
"Four and a half years ago we started packaging and shipping all SunPasses for the state of Florida," explained MacDonald Training Center CEO, Jim Freyvogel, "In that period of time, the people we serve, who were only doing simple repetitive tasks before that, have been successful in packaging and shipping over 3.6 million Sunpasses with fewer than 200 errors."
The people served by the MacDonald Training Center have a range of developmental disabilities from cerebral palsy, mental retardation to autism, but they are still capable of being productive members of society...they just need the right training.
At MTC, they get the training so they can move on to a stable job and they earn money in the process.
"It feels great to be here," smiled Gladys Ruttell.
"Our goal as an organization is to become more independent from our dependence on government funding and our goal is also for the people we serve to become more independent from us," said Freyvogel.
It's not just SunPass...
You know those Labor Law posters you see at work? They're packaged at MTC.
The vests and flags used by worn by the Florida Department of Transportation are sewn at MTC, as are the sediment tubes used by Seagrass Recovery.
Local businesses are also teaming up with MTC to expand their businesses.
"They do a great job, they're perfectionists," said Debra Weisser, the Tampa woman who created Hem-Eze, a double sided tape that not only not creates a temporary hem for pants that are too long, but also creates a crease.
MTC counts, packages and ships her product to retailers like Walgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond and TJ Maxx.
"Any time I need something, it's not a problem, they find solutions for me," she smiled. She's working to expand her business with new products and plans to continue working with MTC.
Another local entrepreneur, Dr. Linda McClintock, creator of Age-less Medicine works with MTC to store and ship her line of vitamins, shakes and protein bars.
'Once they believe in your product an they believe in you, they bend over backwards to try and make everything work. They're unbelievable," said McClintock.
The MacDonald Training Center still has room and the need to grow and is reaching out to businesses who need help in getting their products to customers.
The reality is, state funding isn't likely to grow.
"Any relationship between two business organizations should be equal, so when organizations come to us, we want them to bring us business and in return, we give them a great product and that helps them. It helps us and the people we serve," said Freyvogel.
The MacDonald Training Center launched in 1953 as a pre-school for children and has since expanded to help adults. It serves hundreds of developmentally disabled people in the Tampa area at its facilities in Tampa and Plant City...or as they like to say...the abled.
MacDonald Training Center is located at 5420 W. Cypress Street in
Tampa. The center can be contacted at 813-870-1300.