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April Is For Autism Awareness – and Awesome - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

April Is For Autism Awareness – and Awesome

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For Leigh Schilling, Blue Star Recyclers is more than a job, it's a future.

The Recycling Technician manually disassembles computer hard disk drives. It's her first paying job, and she takes pride in crushing her goals. Leigh's record this year: ahead by 341 percent and counting.

“Yes, we all have disabilities,” she says. “But we don't let them get in our way. I have a disability, but I'm going to get on with my life.”

The CDC estimates that more than 3.5 million Americans live with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. For adults on the spectrum, the employment outlook is grim. As of June 2014, only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. One Colorado Springs company, however, is making a remarkable difference.

Blue Star Recyclers, the award-winning non-profit, has recycled nearly 7 million pounds of electronic waste since 2009, which is impressive on its own, but its core purpose is to use that work to create local jobs for people with autism and other disabilities.

It didn't take long after starting the company, says Blue Star CEO Bill Morris, to realize that this business was a perfect match to the talents of those with autism. He notes that the positive effect on the employees was almost immediate.

“Just having a job to go to is a big deal,” Morris says. It's also a big deal because the employees' wages enable them to reduce or eliminate the need for government assistance, which in turn saves the taxpayers roughly $15,000 a year.

Blue Star sees a lot of zeroes. As in, zero turnovers, zero absenteeism, and zero lost time accidents. “The Blue Star team is inherently safe and productive,” Morris says of the employees. “They follow procedure. They don't rush or cut corners.” Beyond that fact, this group of employees is incredibly focused on the task at hand.

During an observational study over the course of two months, it was estimated that the employees were engaged in the work almost 98 percent of the time they're on the clock. “That's about twice the average employee,” Morris says. He notes it would be 100 percent if he weren't coming around to interrupt their work. “It's a population that loves procedural, tactile work. They're very good at it,” he says.

As April is Autism Awareness Month, Morris really wants other employers in this industry to recognize the ability in this group, not the disability. “The rate of unemployment has nothing to do with disability,” he says. “It only has to do with the lack of opportunity.”

Since its inception, Blue Star Recyclers has created more than 30 jobs and produced $3 million in new local revenue and taxpayer savings in Colorado Springs.

This April, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, Earth Day and Tax Day, support Blue Star Recyclers in any or all of these ways:

1. Bring us your old household electronics.

One man's trash is another man's treasure. Bring personal laptops, desktops, servers, printers, wire, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, appliances and even that ancient vacuum cleaner to Blue Star. The recycling fee you pay goes directly toward wages for our team to recycle and reclaim materials. Download a list of the items we accept and call ahead for times and drop-off locations.

2. Connect your business with Blue Star Recyclers.

If you have a local business, ask us about our local pick-up service for your e-waste. We handle electronics, hard drive destruction and fluorescent bulb recycling. Request a quote online.

3. Support our mission.

Please consider making a onetime or a monthly tax-free donation to Blue Star Recyclers, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit social enterprise. Your money helps pay willing workers a fair wage, reducing your tax burden, changing lives and making Colorado Springs a cleaner, better place to live. Call or email us for more information at:

Blue Star Recyclers

100 Talamine Court

Colorado Springs, CO 80907

(719) 597-6119

info@bluestarrecyclers.com

Hours: Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sat. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

This article was produced for and sponsored by Blue Star Recyclers, Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is not a product of or affiliated with KOAA.


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