Throughout the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Yavapai Exceptional Industries (YEI!) has continued to serve its clients and its production partners. Thanks to the implementation of new health and safety procedures, said YEI! Executive Director Brad Newman, the YEI! team hasn’t participated in an economic downturn as a spinoff of the COVID crisis.

“The ‘YEI! way’ is to be clean, be careful, but not be crazy,” Newman said.

Despite the pandemic’s impacts on so many businesses and organizations, YEI! has not affected any layoffs or imposed any furloughs. All salaries and benefits have remained intact since March, due in large part to the 2019 tax credit program, Newman said.

Although YEI! closed all program facilities March 23, the production department, headed by staff and manned by YEI! guys and gals, continued to deliver valuable services to fill production partners’ orders. Throughout April, which Newman called “the cruelest month,” quoting T.S. Elliiott, YEI! staff maintained contact with and support of YEI! families.

April felt interminable to Newman, YEI! staff, and YEI! guys and gals, and the organization opened back up May 1 … with some amendments to daily operations:

  • An elbow-bump-instead-of-hugs policy (which Newman said has been a tough transition for YEI’s “huggy” culture).
  • Split lunch breaks which means fewer people in eating areas to allow for social distancing.
  • Split van runs for less-crowded transportation.
  • More outdoor jobs and activities, including creek restoration and trash abatement.
  • Tape and stickers throughout YEI! facilities to indicate proper social distancing.
  • Signs at every facility to outline health and safety procedures.
  • Masks and hand sanitizer available for all staff, YEI! guys and gals, and visitors.
  • The introduction of the YEI! Extreme Clean Team, who wear special vests (created by Sir Speedy), gloves, and masks while disinfecting work areas, surfaces, light switches, the vans, and more.

Brad credits generous and helpful donations for YEI’s ability to stay open. As he sang during a recent radio spot: “The river is wide and it’s a wild ride, but sure as shootin’ there’s going to be another side.”

“We will get to the other side of this, and we’ll have it in the rearview mirror,” he said.

YEI! is a charitable organization founded in 1974 to support adults with disabilities living in the Central Highlands by providing them with job training, employment, volunteer placements, and support services. The “Developmental Employment” program at YEI! includes the award-winning “Community Contribution Corps” and has been continually accredited at the highest level of service by the National Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities since 1978.