As the Community Employment Coordinator at Yavapai Exceptional Industries (YEI!), Justin Bahnsen enjoys the partnerships between YEI! and local businesses such as Sturm Ruger, Jay’s Bird Barn, StoneCo, and Enlighten Candles, to name a few.
YEI! clients, often known as “YEI-hoos,” have opportunities to work and socialize, while providing valuable services to local industry. And it keeps them busy: Bahnsen drives three vehicles a day and hundreds of miles each week. Along with about a dozen YEI! clients, he travels the county, transporting YEI-hoos to work and supervising them, and delivering and picking up products from production partners.
Meanwhile, they’re doing something even more important: spreading positivity and awareness—from Chino Valley to Prescott Valley to Dewey and everywhere in between.
“One of the biggest things is that there are a lot of people out there who have friends or family members with developmental disabilities, and they’re not always aware of YEI,” Bahnsen said. “People don’t know programs like ours are available.”
When people realize programs like YEI! exist, they can “see possibilities for someone they know.”
Plus, Bahnsen said, “Our guys are always upbeat, positive, and happy. With a lot of the places we go into, it’s amazing how people light up when they see us. The guys are always happy to go out and socialize. It spreads a lot of positivity.”
Whether they’re crafting YEI!’s famous picnic benches and planters, assembling kits for Sturm Ruger, attaching wicks to candle bases for Enlighten Candles, or delivering office supplies for Quality Connections out of Flagstaff, YEI-hoos do it with smiles on their faces.
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.