By Donna Thornton/News Editor
A group of enthusiastic Honda employees delivered a 2011 Honda Odyssey van to a grateful staff at Darden Rehabilitation Foundation on April 9.
Darden applied for a grant through which the auto manufacturer would supply the business with the van for the agency’suse in serving its consumers in several counties.
Honda Community Relations Manager Stephanie Alexander said after visiting Darden and learning about the role it plays in helping disabled people to prepare for and find employment, she felt honored that Honda can be a part of what Darden does.
Alexander and a group of Honda volunteers delivered the van and took time to tour Darden’s facilities.
Darden works not only to match its consumers with employers at workplaces outside its facilities on the Gadsden State Community College campus, it also seeks out contracts with companies so that consumers can do jobs at Darden to fulfill contracts with various companies.
After delivering the van, a team of Honda employee-volunteers toured Darden and were able to see consumers doing contract work for Goodyear, for Cintas, the City of Gadsden Parks and Recreation Department and Choice Fabrication.
Some of the jobs deal with recycling efforts: straightening hangers for uniform supplier Cintas; separating rubber products and bundling it so it can be recycled for Goodyear; and bundling cardboard to be recycled. Darden consumers also do groundskeeping work at Noccalula Falls.
Alexander noted a connection with Honda through the contract work. Cintas supplies uniforms for Honda workers, on hangers that may well have been touched by the hands of Darden consumers.
Darden Operations Ma-nager Derek Coburn said the agency hopes to broaden the scope of its cardboard recycling business.
If anyone has a business that results in a lot of cardboard boxes that need to be disposed of, Coburn would like to hear from them.
No matter what the consumers at Darden are doing, the van from Honda will be a great help.
“The whole of Darden can use this van,” Coburn said.
From taking consumers to jobs, or to get state-issued IDs, the van make transportation much safer.
“It will allow us to retire one of the buses we’ve been using,” Darden Director Brent McCoy said.
The bus, he said, is old, costs a lot to repair and is approaching the point of being unsafe to drive.
Alexander credited United Way of Etowah County’s Joanne Hightower with bringing Darden and Honda together. She said Honda’s volunteers couldn’t be more pleased.
“What a wonderful place,” Alexander said.
“They provide jobs to people with disabilities. Without them, where would these people go? What would they do? We’re honored to help.”