A History of Empowering People with Disabilities

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and it’s a cause that is near and dear to our hearts (and our triple bottom line business). Since 1997, we’ve partnered with Search, Inc – a Chicago-based non-profit – to support and inspire people with disabilities to live their fullest lives. Here’s a brief history on our long and fruitful friendship. 

1968 – Search, Inc. opens its first program for 8 kids with developmental disabilities in a Chicago suburb. It’s a grassroots movement started by parents advocating for the inclusion of their children into the public school system. Their vision is of a world where all people livelearnwork and play alongside one another, bringing their unique abilities to the community.

1972 – The Earth Child Emporium is established, Search’s first adult learning program for individuals at its school who are aging out of services.

1988 – Search opens it first supported Living Program, a home for residents in Chicago.

1995 – Horny Toad, now Toad&Co, opens its first store in downtown Telluride. Our HQ is Chicago where Gordon Seabury, Toad&Co CEO, meets John Lipscomb, Search President. They start hatching a plan.  

1996 – Search buys, renovates, furnishes and staffs 9 new homes for 56 individuals – all in a span of 6 months.

1997 – Toad&Co and Search link up to co-found Planet Access Company, a third-party logistics warehouse in Chicago that trains and employs adults with disabilities. The original concept was for Search clients to make camping pillows using fleece scraps from Toad’s production. This idea ultimately gives way to the Planet Access Company (PAC) warehouse. Toad becomes their first client.

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2000 – Visibility Arts established, a comprehensive visual arts program is launched to provide Search clients opportunities for self-expression, creativity and achievement.

2004 – Toad&Co and Search partner to launch Search for Adventure, a program to take individuals with developmental disabilities on their first outdoor adventure experiences. Trips are fully paid for and fully inclusive. The first trip is to Graceland in Memphis, TN.

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2008 – Visibility Arts moves into its flagship gallery and studio space in Mt. Prospect, Chicago.

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2010 – The Planet Access Co. Store opens in Lincoln Square in Chicago. It’s a retail store with a mission: 100% of the proceeds from purchases help over 500 people with disabilities live more independent lives. The store only carries brands that make sustainable and socially responsible clothing, jewelry and décor.

2012 – Search’s Hop on the Bus to Independence hosts their first free workshops to help people with disabilities build skills to independently and safely use public transportation.

2013 –  Search successfully merges with JJ’s List, a smaller grassroots organization. This expands Search’s opportunities for self-advocacy and disability awareness training. The plucky acting-turned-teaching troupe, the Disability Awareness Players, is formed.

2015 – PAC Warehouse upgrades into a new 63,000 sq. ft. space to house its growing enterprise. More brands, more units, more employees, more good. Each year the company generates over 20,000 hours of paid, train-to-work opportunities, allowing individuals with disabilities to earn a wage while they gain valuable work experience. 

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2016 – Visibility Arts expands again with the opening of a second studio space and gallery.

2017 – Toad&Co sends the inclusive Canoemobile around the US to connect 1000 adults with disabilities to various National Parks across the US for their first time.

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Our CEO Gordon and our Search, Inc. partners canoe through the Santa Barbara Harbor

 

2020 – As of today…

180 individuals live at 30 independent and supported residences throughout the Chicagoland area.

385 individuals have participated in training and paid work opportunities through PAC since 2003. 

500 individuals with developmental disabilities are thriving as members of Search, Inc.

700 people have gone on 104 Search for Adventure trips that have included hiking the historic Appalachian Trail, experiencing the majesty of the Grand Canyon, and riding the range at the Powderhorn Dude Ranch in Colorado.

4,500 students and adults with disabilities have built their public transportation skills.

11,000 people at more than 150 organizations have received a Disability Awareness Training for disability-aware customer service.

Millions of units shipped out of PAC warehouse (including 100% of Toad&Co’s inventory!).

Every Toad&Co purchase contributes to a bright future for adults with disabilities. Thank you for being part of this movement – more to come in 2020 and beyond!

 

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: Q&A with Artist Jazmin Harms

There’s no such thing as a “disability” when it comes to creativity or work ethic. A sense of purpose runs through all of us, and that force is strong with Jazmin Harms. Jazmin is a resident artist at the SlingShot Art Studio and Gallery in our hometown of Santa Barbara.

We’re big fans of SlingShot since it’s not your typical gallery: The art on the walls is created by 40 in-house artists with intellectual disabilities. A branch of the mission-driven Alpha Resource Center, SlingShot provides a sunny, open studio space to encourage creative expression and a modern gallery for artists to sell their art in the heart of downtown.

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Jazmin Harms is this month’s featured artist at SlingShot’s latest gallery show, ROAR. Her use of graphite on paper brings life to the animals she loves. SlingShot Teaching Artist Mike Blaha sat down with Jazmin to ask her about some of her favorite things.

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Where is your favorite place in nature?

Jelly Bowl in Carpenteria. I walk to the Beach. It takes about 20+ minutes but I like the journey to the beach. I bring my phone to take pictures. My favorite subject is the sunset. I look for the “golden hour” when the sun just disappears and there are dolphins. 

What kind of art do you create?

I draw only animals all the time. I pick pictures that I can depict honestly and are true to their forms. Big predatory animals are the most interesting and big cats are my favorite. 

What medium do you use?

I use graphite because I like the way the shades of graphite renders the animals. 

What time of year is your favorite? 

I like summer evenings the best because I can stay at the beach for longer. I time my arrival to catch the “golden hour.”

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Taking photographs of the sunset seems challenging, how do you do it? 

I like using foreground objects like rocks, driftwood and surf to accentuate the sunsets. I love seeing whales and dolphins. My favorite colors are the oranges and yellows. 

What else do you like about the beach? 

I like to go alone to feel a strong sense of nature. I hike up and down the beach to collect sea glass. Finding blue is my favorite. I have quite a large collection of sea glass. I get a calming effect that lasts the rest of the evening. I go as often as I can.

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To see Jazmin’s amazing work, check out the ROAR show at the SlingShot Studio. We held a pop-up fundraiser for March First Thursday (which is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, btw), and we can say firsthand that all the art is stellar!

For more on our mission to create and support opportunities for people with disabilities, check out this letter from our CEO. A portion of every Toad&Co purchase directly contributes to our mission.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month: A Letter From Our CEO

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, a month that is near and dear to the heart of Toad. In 1996 (back when we were still Horny Toadmore on that here), we partnered with Search, Inc. to co-found the Planet Access Company, a warehouse that trains and employs people with developmental disabilities.

Here’s more from our CEO Gordon on why March is such a special month for us:

Back in the 90’s, the outdoor industry was fully vested in saving the planet and responsible environmental business practices, but no one was connecting the first “P” of  triple bottom line business (People, Planet, Profit): PEOPLE. I wanted Toad&Co to lead that charge and add a meaningful people dimension to the industry’s responsibility ethos.

Enter Search, Inc.— a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of people with disabilities. They had a novel idea to build a social enterprise partnership between a non-profit organization (them) and for-profit company (us). I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to connect these eager individuals to the larger economy. That’s when Toad&Co and Search co-created the Planet Access Company (PAC), a state-of-the-art logistical warehouse with a mission to train and employ adults with disabilities to foster independence and pride.

Since its establishment in 1996, Planet Access Company has trained over 700 individuals with developmental disabilities, processed hundreds of thousands of products, and shipped to retailers and customers all over the world. In addition to handling warehouse logistics for other brands, 100% of Toad&Co products are picked, packed and shipped with unmatched reliability and service by the PAC work crew. Without a doubt, it is the single greatest source of pride for both Search, Inc and Toad&Co.

As Toad&Co sales grow, so do the opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities by spawning other programs born from this partnership. The proceeds from PAC have funded a travel program for people with disabilities, disability awareness training for businesses, a retail store for additional vocational training, and a visual arts program.

When we forged this unorthodox relationship, our goal was to prove that a for-profit/not-for-profit enterprise could be done with grace, mutual benefit, and meaningful impact. We are happy to say that we exceeded even our wildest dreams. Now, we look to focus our energy and resources to expanding our efforts and inspiring other organizations to follow suit.

So thank you for being a part of our mission. A portion of every Toad&Co purchase goes toward creating meaningful change in the world. We couldn’t do it without you. 

In gratitude,

Gordon

Gordon Seabury, CEO Toad&Co 

A portion of every Toad&Co sale creates opportunities for adults with disabilities. This month, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, and every month. You shop, we give.

Designed for Good Diaries: Kristina

 

You probably don’t give much thought to warehouses. But we don’t have your average warehouse. In 1997, we co-founded the Planet Access Company in Chicago to provide adults with developmental disabilities with job training and career opportunities in a full-functioning warehouse. We’re proud so say we’ve had hundreds of PAC employees and apprentices over the last 20 years, and the warehouse now serves multiple brands. From new shipments to returns, every Toad&Co item is processed with unmatched enthusiasm by the PAC warehouse crew. Meet Kristina, a Returns Specialist since October 2015, and one of our stellar PAC employees.

Q: Tell us about yourself. What do you like to do for fun?
A: My name is Kristina and I live in Skokie, IL. I like to go bowling, hang out with friends, go to movies and go to sleepovers. I like to exercise and celebrate the holidays with family.

Q: What do you like about your job?
A: I like to work with the co-workers – I like to process the clothes and try something new. I do web returns, process clothes, and put them in the right bins. I make sure they are not damaged. I make sure there is no mistake and I highlight the information on the paperwork and put them in my folder – I try to double check it each time.

Q: What is different for you now that you have a job?
A: Well, I am learning a lot of new things and learning new stuff on the computer – and it pays good money.

Q: Why is it important for you to have a job?
A: Because then you can apply for different jobs in the community. That’s why it is important to listen to your boss and not argue with them and you have to clock in at the right time and clock out at the right time.

Q: Why is it important for businesses to hire people with disabilities?
A: Because it is good and makes sure that they can learn something.

A portion of every Toad&Co purchase contributes to creating opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. From opportunities at PAC to outdoor adventures, when you shop, we give. Learn more about Designed for Good.

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