Thursday, February 28, 2013

How one woman with a vision for “Special People” built a business!

Barbara Roos was a beauty queen from Enid, Oklahoma.  Her titles included Rattlesnake Queen and 1st Runner up in the Miss. Oklahoma contest.   Her years at Oklahoma University were spent pursuing a Journalism degree. 

In 1958 Barbara met and married Donald Brennan. Their life together was rapidly enlarged by the birth of five children.  Joey, their third child was born with hydrocephalus and it is Joey who took Barbara and the rest of the Brennan family on a journey that has enhanced not only their lives, but the live of countless others. 

Born at Georgetown Hospital in 1962, Barbara and Don went into delivery with the anticipation of giving birth to twins; what they got instead was a beautiful boy with an immense head due to the water on his brain.  At the time, they were advised to institutionalize their baby; nurses cautioned Barbara against holding her son for fear she would bond to him.  In 1962 this was the prevailing wisdom but it was anything but wisdom for Barbara who demanded to see her son, held him, cuddled him, loved him and brought him home to raise with her other children.

Every bit of joy and affection showered on Joey was returned ten-fold. He had a great belly laugh, loved applesauce and a Bozo the Clown doll and became quite adept at climbing.  Blind by the time he was three, never learning to walk or talk Joey was the impetus of Barbara's lifetime of commitment to people with developmental disabilities.

Barbara's life was extraordinarily busy during the years that followed. A fourth child arrived  and there was no support for her child with disabilities, no mainstreaming and no schools. Barbara's first course of action was to find other mothers in the same position and start a school. Initially a summer program, Barbara enlisted teenagers willing to volunteer their time, a church with a basement and eventually funding from the state and federal government.

Joey’s life ended just a few days before his eighth birthday but his story didn't end there, he was the impetuous for a life of working for and with people with different needs. Barbara and Don started Stride, Inc. which has been employing a special workforce since 1988.  Originally started six years earlier as a “sheltered workshop” a not-for-profit, the goal of the business was to employ people with disabilities and eventually move people from a protected environment into the regular workforce. They did this with a governmental funding, employing one able bodied person for every two with different needs.  Barbara was the general manager of the operation and loved her work but conducting business was frustrating trying to compete in the corporate world as a not-for-profit.  She and Don started questioning, why use government funding? Why not operate a for-profit with a mission of employing people with different needs?  They bought the business and started on a grand adventure to do just that. 
Three months after they purchased the business, Don suddenly died.  Barbara found herself needing to carry on their dream alone.

Today Stride, Inc. sells their office products to all the major contract stationers and wholesalers in the business. Half of their employment is adults with disabilities and countless others have left Stride to work in the community. Her life is a lesson in determination and an example that you can run a successful for profit business with a mission to employ people with different needs.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Valentine's Day 2012

At Stride Inc., we refer to Vaden as a  "Super Employee!"  On a daily basis, Vaden thanks us for hiring him; how many employers get to hear that every single day?!  He loves working at Stride and says it's his favorite job ever.  At Stride he has friends and earns a paycheck. Vaden is always eager to increase his hours and never fails to volunteer to assist with an activity.  For Vaden it's simple; Stride is like family and when he has a problem someone is always willing to help him.  Vaden has been a valued employee for many years.

Voted most "Friendly Boy" in high school, Vaden was not born with a congenital disability.  He attended two years of business college before health issues took him on a downward turn that eventually lead to his disability.  Today Vaden lives semi-independently with thanks to a transitional living service.  Vaden  has a great sense of humor and has a unique ability to turn any situation into a positive one, punctuated with laughter.
One of Vaden's first jobs was at Sonic Drive-in where he recounts the time he cooked and delivered a hamburger minus the patty!  His giggles increase as he describes how the customer was halfway through their meal before noticing the missing hamburger patty.  Because customer service is intrinsic to Vaden's nature, the meal was replaced promptly with an apology and a smile. 
Vaden's other interests include bowling, movies, computer games and especially, Facebook, which he says with a twinkle in his eye, "you can have people 'friend' me."  One of six siblings, Vaden is especially appreciative of the help his sister, Leanne, gives him. 
When asked about his favorite job at Stride, Vaden responds with a smile, "All of them! I do like the hand assembly of pens and am glad that we don't have machines making the pens." We agree with Vaden and prioritize products that have hands on applications over items that come off machines readymade.
Vaden is appreciative of his job which he makes apparent... as his colleagues; we are the ones who should be grateful for his steadfast commitment to Stride! We hope you've enjoyed Vaden's story.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Another Stride Story
Stride, Inc. manufactures and distributes office products - BUT - Stride is not your average business! A small women-owned business, Stride's goal is to provide the consumer with exceptional office products alongside a mission to provide successful training and employment of people with intellectual disabilities.
When Robert J started at Stride, Inc. in 1988 there was already a Robert on staff, the new Robert suggested we call him by his middle name and promptly became "Jude" in our heart and minds. Robert came to us through an organization called the Division of Vocational Rehab.
Robert is a member of the Indian Pueblo of Jemez, New Mexico, and is of the Eagle Clan; he is an accomplished Indian potter and a full participant in all cultural feasts.  On Feast days you can find Robert in Traditional Dress, dancing, signing or drumming.  Robert's commute from Pueblo Jemez begins at 4:30am with a shuttle to the commuter rail line, a train ride, a bus ride and finally ends with a walk.  He reverses the pattern to arrive home around 7pm.  Robert will laugh when we talk about his commute because before the commuter line he hitchhiked the 48 miles to work and says those stories are much more entertaining!
Stride, Inc. is Robert's first job and he worked as an assembly specialist for many years before moving on to other employment opportunities. Recognizing the need to "expand himself" and "conquer" other work environments, Robert left Stride much to the sadness of his co-workers.  In 2008 Robert came back to work at Stride in the same position he had left.  Soon, the management team realized that this was a new Robert, one with organizational and supervision skills. 
Today, Robert is a member of the management team, salaried, participates in a retirement plan and no longer receives government assistance.  As Stride's Production Assistant Robert's duties are to make certain special needs workers have work to do and the tools needed to complete their jobs.  With new, complicated packaging duties Robert noticed in one instance that a worker could not count the required eight pens to put in a box. Deducing that the worker could count out four pens, he devised a system where his colleague places four pens in his right hand and four in his left to complete the set of eight.  Robert is a natural leader with a unique ability to explain tasks slowly and patiently; enabling his co-workers to be successful.
When Robert first came to Stride he admits to being unable to communicate do to extreme shyness. Working at Stride has helped him to open up and he attributes the ability to the family like atmosphere at Stride where he feels he works with his brothers and sisters and founder, Barbara Brennan is like a second Mother. We second Robert's feelings and value the skills he brings to the Stride Family.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Dog Days of Stride

We love our dogs and have the fortunate ability to bring them to work.  Not all at once!  We have a coordinated schedule.

At times we've had dogs as big as Great Danes and as little as Yorkshire Terriers. Our developmentally disabled colleagues don't typically have their own canine pets and love the critters we bring to work.  Marie, our official dog walker, can be certain to get multiple walks in throughout the work day along with her other duties.  In many ways this has brought out the enthusiasm of our individual employees and given them a way of showing love, not only for the animals, but for each other.  For someone with a developmental disability, who has always been told what they cannot do...
being at Stride shows them what they can do!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Following in the Footsteps of a Giant

"Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue, oh what those five feet can do... (Has Anybody Seen My Girl?)" was a popular song of the 1920s. I recall my father singing it to my mother...

Oh, what those five feet can do... last week, my powerhouse of a mother was here to greet and welcome two additional members of the Stride, Inc. team. We welcomed Dooley P. and Tim D. Both gentleman have come on board as Packaging and Assembly Specialists.

This is Dooley's first work experience in a paying job, he has had a great deal of volunteer work prior to joining Stride. Dooley has brought a great new way of thinking to Stride... he's intellectual and engaging. The first week was a little rough for him and we decided to tweak his hours a bit to ease him into the workday.

Tim is coming back to Stride. He used to work here many years ago and only recently decided he would like to come back. Tim has been persistent and exuberant in seeking employment! So persistent in fact; that our VP of Sales has threatened to put him on sales calls!

Oh, what those five feet can do... my mother amazes me; she has accomplished remarkable things with her life and it is a privilege to carry on the dreams she has of offering employment to this special  workforce. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Marching, shuffling, rolling, tip-toeing and bouncing...

Picture this:  some thirty students, handsomely dressed, gigantic smiles plastered on many faces, fists pumping jubilantly in the air, some serious, intent on following the precise plan they practiced throughout the day.

Marching, shuffling, rolling, tip-toeing, bouncing, some needing guided assistance to their assigned seats while Rascal Flats My Wish  played in the background. 
James with his family
It's graduation day!!!  Everyone of these special kids has a Developmental Disability but yesterday I was privileged to witness a celebration of their great accomplishments.  If you had been there, perhaps tears would have rolled down your face as they did mine... how can one be unmoved by the sheer joy and pride on the faces of these young adults?

Yesterday was a special day for our very own James B!  James graduated from APS Transitions' CTAP program, a Career Transition Assistance Plan available through our public schools in Albuquerque. James was a featured speaker and did a marvelous job.  Members of the Stride, Inc. team were there to cheer him on and were gratified to hear him proclaim that his goal of finding employment has been reached.

Stride would like to thank our customers who make the hiring of James and all of our team members possible.  OfficeMax, Office Depot, Staples, School Specialty, WB Mason, United Stationers and SP Richards Company - your support of our products helps keep our Mission alive!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Stride Welcomes Dooley!

It's not even noon time and I've had three calls today from various agencies asking if we are hiring.  A lot has been said about the high unemployment numbers across the nation but have you ever stopped to think about people with developmental disabilities needing work? 

Slider Memos -
Shipping  to  an
Office Depot
retail store near you.
Stride, Inc. welcomed another new employee today. Dooley joined the team as a Packaging and Assembly worker.  Dooley is an accomplished photographer and likes graphic art.  Coming from the good folks at APS Transitions (, this is Dooley's first paying job and we are delighted to have him working with us.  The work on the schedule today is packaging replenishment packs for Office Depot retail store orders.   Dooley's lucky because the team loves packaging the colorful Memo and Slider XBs, it's a round table operation where everyone has hands on and teamwork is the key!

Stride would like to warmly welcome Dooley to the team!