Our Work with Habitat for Humanity

Welcome to QC Enews Empowerment

Our goal at Quality Connections is to empower our members so that they can be more independent and self-sufficient, and it’s our partners in the community that make this possible. 

One of our most rewarding partnerships is with Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona and in this edition of our e-newsletter, we talk with Habitat’s ReStore Manager about the workplace training our members are doing there. 

Habitat has also been a benefit to one of our longtime employees in a more personal way. Our QC Office Customer Relations Manager Tonnya Jensen recently moved into a Habitat home, fulfilling a long-time promise to her children that they would move out of a somewhat cramped apartment and into a house of their own. We share her story below.

We hope you enjoy this edition of Enews Empowerment.

– Armando Bernasconi,
Co-Founder and CEO

A Powerful Partnership:
Habitat for Humanity and Quality Connections

Each week a handful of our Quality Connections members travel to the ReStore on Fourth Street in Flagstaff as part of their employment services training.

Technically, they are volunteers, but their experience working in the nonprofit retail outlet, which is part of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Arizona, helps them prepare for future work in the community.

“I like to let them build on the strengths they already have,” said ReStore Manager Justin Cartwright, who has been with Habitat for Humanity for the past four years. “If they are good at organizing, we have them sort through items. If someone is a people person, we have them go out back and accept donations. If they have a skill, I’m going to bend over backwards to help them use that skill here.”

The ReStore is a home improvement retailer and donation center that sells new and gently used furniture, large appliances, building tools and materials at a fraction of the retail price. ReStore proceeds are invested in the community through Habitat for Humanity programs that build affordable housing for low-income local residents.

Usually the five or six Quality Connection members who volunteer are accompanied by two to three Employment Services job coaches, who help our members overcome barriers to the workplace, practice employment skills, and leverage the experience they receive as volunteers to help them find work in the community.

Cartwright, who worked assisting individuals with developmental disabilities before joining Habitat for Humanity, sees the partnership between ReStore and Quality Connections as a win-win for both organizations.

“Everyone has that need to fit in and be part of a team,” he said. “That’s very valuable for everyone and it’s no different for folks with intellectual disabilities. Being out in the community, interacting with the general public, building friendships, all of that helps them build their self-esteem and relationships.”

For the ReStore, the work the volunteers do is valuable to supporting the store and, through that, the entire Habitat for Humanity program. Some of the Quality Connection volunteers are mainstays at the store, he said, who are reaching 200 and 300 hours of volunteer time with the organization.

“It is just awesome that they come in day after day, giving their best,” he said. “We are eternally grateful for them.”

Story of Success: Tonnya Jensen

When long-time Quality Connections employee Tonnya Jensen became a homeowner last year, it was the latest achievement in a life that has been filled with them.

The Customer Relations Manager for QC Office says her successes were due in part to help she’s received along the way from her friends and colleagues at Quality Connections and the Habitat for Humanity program in Northern Arizona.

“Quality Connections was my biggest cheerleader getting me out of my apartment and into a home,” she said.

Tonnya has Rod Cone Dystrophy, a hereditary vision problem that impacts the central field of vision and also causes light sensitivity. The disability didn’t stop her from earning honors at Coconino Community College, where she studied Office Information Systems. She brought that knowledge with her to the Quality Connections vocational rehabilitation program in Flagstaff. 

Quality Connections provided her with special computer equipment and an appropriately lit workspace that allowed her to succeed as a member of the QC Office team. Before long, she was the Customer Relations Manager and has played a key role in the program’s success.

Recently, she wanted to embark on another part of the American Dream, being a homeowner. As a single mom raising two children – including daughter, Autumn, who has Down Syndrome – finding an affordable home in Flagstaff was difficult.

But she persisted, partly because of a promise she made to her son Brandon that the family would eventually have a home where each of her children could have their own bedrooms and the kitchen would fit more than one person.

Brandon, a recent graduate of Coconino High School, hopes to work in the culinary field one day, she said, and the apartment kitchen was so small that you couldn’t fully open the oven door without hitting the refrigerator.

Tonnya applied twice through Habitat for Humanity to be considered for a newly built home, but lost out each time (dozens of people typically apply for a single house). She kept reaching out to the organization, however, to remind them of her interest. When a family currently in a Habitat for Humanity house was poised to move, Habitat told her that if she could secure a loan, the home would be hers.

“I felt like I had won the lottery,” she said.

With scanning and paperwork help from Quality Connections bookkeeper Serena Fairchild, and down payment assistance from Housing Solutions of Northern Arizona, Tonnya was able to get a loan and close on the house in February of last year. Her colleagues at Quality Connections used a QC van and moved her from her 650-square-foot apartment to her two-story, three-bedroom house in a matter of hours. The Employment Services team at QC even helped her clean her old apartment!

Now she’s enjoying all the security and fruits of being a homeowner – like planning her vegetable garden that she’ll be growing this year.

But her real joy comes from seeing how her two children are enjoying their new home.

“Brandon was just so happy and relieved when he saw the house,” she said. “It’s so good to see your kids happy and excited.”

We need Quality Connections . . . like you!

You can help individuals with disabilities become independent and productive members of our community. There are many way to be a ‘Quality Connection’ and get involved and all of them are important:

Every purchase from QC Office equals employment and job training opportunities for a person with disabilities.

Enable a person with disabilities to become a productive member of our community.

You’ll be doing good. Plus, you’ll get a dollar-for-dollar credit on your AZ state taxes (up to $800!)

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