A person would be hard-pressed to find a workplace where the employees are happier than at Chilton’s New Hope Center.
There is a buzz of excitement in the air as employees are beginning to work for their own company. “Made by M. E.” is the trademarked slogan of New Hope’s most recent endeavor to help individuals with disabilities gain a whole new set of skills and opportunities that may lead to eventual “self-employment” for some. M. E. stands for Micro-Enterprise and its ambitious plan is to create a revolving “incubator” of business opportunities, the goal of which is to generate greater independence and self-sustaining jobs for many of the over 100 individuals NHC serves each year.
Greg Logemann, CEO, said the forecast is not bright for funding agencies such as New Hope Center. As the general population ages, more government funding will be needed to provide programs and services for the elderly, potentially decreasing tax-based monetary support for the disabled.
New Hope Center has grown, survived and thrived since 1965 thanks to the generosity of many local volunteers, donors and businesses. Area business has long supplied work to New Hope’s dedicated workers, sometimes because it was more efficient and cost effective but also recognizing how meaningful work is for individuals.
Because production work relies largely on the economy, the hope with Made by M. E. is to teach workers a business from start to finish, while providing stability to the agency’s bottom line.
The first venture for Made by M. E. is a screen-printing and heat press business to put logos and designs on clothing, caps and more. “Eight months ago we didn’t know anything about the shirt business,” Logemann said, but they have learned quickly and are working to train employees while formulating a business plan. He acknowledges there are other businesses which do this type of work but believes customers who choose New Hope Center will value their contribution to the wages of individuals with disabilities and the learning opportunities including production, sales, marketing and accounting.
Grants from the Peters Foundation, Ariens Foundation, Chilton Area Community Foundation and Fox Valley Community Foundation helped New Hope Center purchase equipment such as a six-station rotating press, a heat tunnel, heat presses and a vinyl cutter.
As New Hope workers develop and explore a new set of skills, look for their work throughout Calumet County. New Hope Center is always seeking individuals interested in “investing” their time both as volunteers and paid employees.
New Hope Center workers are excited about their new Made by M. E. micro-enterprise, which is doing screenprinting and vinyl application onto T-shirts, tote bags and numerous other products. Above, Tim Propp works on screenprinting a shirt, as does Dana Yancy at left. Below are (front, from left) Julie Meyer, Yancy and Propp with Greg Logemann, chief executive officer of New Hope Center who has learned the screenprinting and vinyl business in order to teach others at the Chilton facility.
If you have questions, or would like to learn more they welcome people to stop in for an application or visit their Web site at www.newhopeinc.org.