Lisa FitzGibbon says aiding the community is the key to the longevity of her career. She's President and CEO of the Easter Seals Work Resource Center in Walnut Hills, which prepares people with disabilities and disadvantages for work opportunities. She began volunteering in social services as a teenager and has worked at WRC for 27 years, nine of those in senior management. The WRC became the Easter Seals' Southwest Ohio affiliate in March.

WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT WRC'S JOB TRAINING PROGRAM?

Work Resource Center focuses exclusively on work. We help people move beyond barriers to find a path to self-sufficiency. WRC has a unique expertise in understanding the issues and systems around disabilities, economic disadvantage and youth"”the "triangle" as we call it.

TALK ABOUT THE "BUILDING VALUE" VENTURE.

Building Value is a building materials re-use center that salvages
reusable building materials and makes them available to the general
public at a discount retail outlet. We manually remove materials
from construction and renovation sites.
The venture is staffed by WRC participants seeking job skills in
retail and construction, and profits from Building Value support other
WRC job-training programs.

DESCRIBE THE COMMUNITY IMPACT OF THIS ENTERPRISE.

It opens job training and transitional employment for people with
disabilities and disadvantages. It provides [tax deductions for] the
homeowners and businesses that donate materials. It generates an
unrestricted source of revenue that flows back into more training and
workforce development. Our first year goal was to divert 300 tons of
building materials from the landfill. We ended the year salvaging 900
tons.

HOW DOES MANAGING WRC COMPARE TO A FOR-PROFIT BUSINESS?

We analyze and forecast revenue from our government funding sources,
contributions and our two social enterprises [a packaging and
fulfillment center]. We fret over the rising costs of health
insurance. One of my mentors said to me that a good non-profit exec has to be a
cross between Mother Teresa and Attila the Hun. Desire to help people
drives our organizations, but we have to be ruthless in focusing our
resources towards endeavors that have the greatest impact on the
people we serve.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT PEOPLE AND THE MEANING OF WORK?

Work leads to personal transformation. I've seen it over and over, and it continues to strike me as a miracle in action. When people discover that they have unique gifts to contribute to the world, they see themselves, and their futures, in an entirely different light.