For two months, Oakville resident Jan Macdonald worked beside David Beckham every day. But she didn’t spend time with the sports star on the soccer field. Instead, she and 19 employees at Best Pack Corporation built displays featuring the soccer pro in a campaign for Sharpie markers. “Let’s just say the ladies here were a little distracted,” jokes Jan.
Jan has a developmental disability. Like David Beckham, she’s a former Olympian, having played 10-pin bowling in the Special Olympics. She’s also been working at Best Pack for more than 20 years. Best Pack is a home-grown packaging business with some high-flying contracts. “We’ve worked with Revlon, Duracell, Sanford and Dow Brand”, says business manager, Lois Corbett. It’s also a non-profit corporation founded to create more work opportunities for Oakville residents with developmental disabilities.
From Monday to Friday, Jan drives to the industrial strip in Oakville where Best Pack is located. After getting out of her car, she enters the x-square foot plant filled to the rafters with packages ready for shipping and materials needed to sort, collate and wrap the myriad of products that appear on store shelves every day.
On weekends, Jan drives two hours from her Oakville apartment to visit her mom in Peterborough. “I love heading out to Pigeon Lake on long weekends in the summer,” she says. “It’s beautiful there.” Between working at Best Pack, 10-pin and 5-pin bowling for which she’s won countless medals, commuting to Peterborough, and joking around with co-workers and neighbours, Jan’s life is pretty busy. And it’s pretty typical of most working adults — with or without a disability.
Community Living Oakville, a local charitable organization that serves people with developmental disabilities and their families, started Best Pack in 1984. “As in many communities, employers were initially reluctant to hire people with developmental disabilities,” says former Community Living Executive Director Andy Rotsma. “But when people visit Best Pack, they want to work with us.”
Creating opportunity for people of all abilities is Community Living Oakville’s goal. It’s also what drives Best Pack’s hiring practices: half the staff have a developmental disability and half do not. “It’s a fully integrated workforce, where everyone gets paid minimum-wage or better,” says Lois.
When it comes to business, service and quality set Best Pack apart from its competitors. “We compete for business like any other co-packer. Many of the companies we work with aren’t even aware that we hire people with disabilities”, admits Lois.
Ford of Canada has been a client for more than twenty years. “We got this contract from Ford because they were doing it in-house and were having a lot of difficulties”, says Lois.
Jan Macdonald oversees the Ford contract. Best Pack accelerates Ford’s invoice system. “We use a triple check system to ensure accuracy,” explains Lois. Jan works each day from 6:30-3, monitoring the Ford operation meticulously. “You’ve got to know what you’re doing,” says Jan. “I do my own thing and set a good pace.”
Jan loves her independence at work — and in the community. It’s one of the bonuses of her steady, full-time job. “It’s Best Pack’s goal to get companies to see us as any other co-packer,” says Lois. And dedicated employees like Jan are integral to making that happen. “The fact that we’re helping out the community is kind of a bonus.”