Philadelphia Eagles News

Baker Industries supplies jobs for hard-to-employ adults

The Eagles continue to support nonprofits that work to reduce barriers to opportunity and end racism. In support of Black History Month, the Eagles are proud to recognize the work of one of these nonprofits each day.

In 1980, Charles and Louise Baker wanted to find a job for their adult son, Justin. The issue? Justin was challenged by a disability. Finding legitimate work wasn't the easiest thing to do at the time.

The Baker family took matters into their own hands and started a nonprofit called Baker Industries, a workforce development center that provides real work and an honest wage for people with disabilities, like Justin.

A few years later, Baker Industries partnered with a homeless shelter in North Philadelphia to provide the same opportunities for adults who are coming out of prison, battling substance abuse disorder, or struggling with housing insecurity.

"One of the biggest realizations coming here four years ago is how much talent is currently under-utilized in the city because folks can't get a chance. It's pretty shocking," says Rich Bevan, president of Baker Industries. "We see lots and lots and lots of smart, talented people who really need to get back into a productive role for the good of the city."

Baker Industries is different from other organizations that dispense job training and simulations. Baker Industries provides real jobs at its two warehouse locations – a 40,000-square-foot facility in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and a 35,000-square-foot operation in Malvern, Pennsylvania. The jobs involve light industrial work, which includes assembly, shrink-wrapping, and mailing. One of the projects that is being worked on at the moment is packaging up to 25,000 COVID testing kits every week.

While Baker Industries is a nonprofit, it's essentially a small business with a social conscience. The employees are paid to deliver goods and supplies to the companies that source their labor. Before COVID, there would be up to 100 workers per week between the two locations. Now, there are up to 60.

"We treat people like adults. You got to show up for work. You got to be on time. You got to have focus on your work. You got to get along with other people, all of the basics that employers look for," Bevan says. "If you can't do that, you're not ready to be here. We say come back in a few weeks or whenever you're ready."

Bevan has been the president of Baker Industries for about four years. He previously was a member of its board, but after 35 years in the healthcare industry, he wanted to be more involved. He knows what it meant when others opened doors for him in his career. He wants to pay it forward. That's what makes it so challenging when a situation doesn't work out.

"You've got to celebrate the successes and move past the stumbles quickly or else you can get pretty bogged down. It is difficult. We're dealing with folks who've been through a lot of pain," Bevan says.

"This is a journey. When folks are ready to be successful, we're going to celebrate that. If they still have a little work to do, then we're going to be supportive. We're not gonna coddle folks either because the world isn't going to coddle you," he adds. "Sometimes you have to take a step back every now and then to take a step forward. You do have to build up some calluses for sure. Otherwise, you're not going to help people."

While on the job, Baker Industries provides the employees with additional training and development with the intent to help them land regular jobs elsewhere. Sometimes it's with a client.

To help support the mission that started with the Baker family's quest to aid their son over 40 years ago, the Eagles Social Justice Fund provided a grant worth $20,000. The money helps people transitioning from Baker Industries to a new job. Sometimes it's in the form of a transportation stipend to help the workers get to their new employer. Sometimes it's providing the employees with some money as they wait for their first new paycheck.

"Our goal is to give them a good work experience," Bevan says. "Give them a little bit of love, give them a little bit of support, and get them ready to go be a good employee."

Learn more about Baker Industries:

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