Vector Industries: A nonprofit business with a mission

Founded in 1969, Vector Industries is a unique nonprofit that is self-supporting in its mission to provide employment opportunities to local residents with different disabilities in the Greater Augusta County area through contract work for a variety of regional customers.

“That’s right. Here at Vector, we’re a charity, but we’re also a business, and we’re fortunate to have great relationships with a number of local companies,” said Crystal Graham, the host of a new video produced by Augusta Free Press that takes viewers on a virtual tour of the Waynesboro, Va., facilities of Vector Industries.

The business aspect to the operations at Vector is innovative, and has a number of supporters among local companies.

“We’ve worked with Vector Industries for about 10 years now. We partnered with them early on in our company. And we use them in a variety of tasks,” said Tom Woodworth at Parker Bows, an Augusta County-based company that produces high-end crossbows, crossbow accessories and compound bows.

Joep Paternostre at Bloomaker in Waynesboro is another long-time corporate customer.

“It’s wonderful to work with people who love doing what they do. These people are always happy, and we enjoy a lot working with Vector,” said Paternostre, whose company has developed and patented a new floral category – long lasting flowers.

Mark Frazier at NIBCO of Virginia in Stuarts Draft, which produces world-class copper fittings for corporate customers, is another big fan of Vector Industries.

“It’s really neat to go down there and see people working who may not be able to work otherwise if we as a community can’t provide work for these folks,” Frazier said. “So from the heartfelt side, it’s great to be able to put these people to work, and hopefully we’ll be able to continue sending them some business.”

The mission at Vector Industries has earned the annual support of the community foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, which has provided grants to Vector Industries to assist Vector in meeting its business and philanthropic goals.

Vector Industries is a wonderful example of a great idea that’s been around for a long time, and the community foundation is very proud to be supporting it and its needs to support its employees and its desire to help the community, the corporate community as well as the broader community in general,” said Dan Layman of the community foundation.

The support from the business community is important, Graham noted, “but our goal here at Vector is twofold, both to operate a successful business and to employ and train persons with diverse disabilities to enable them to reach their potential as productive community members.”

The video lets us meet some Vector Industries employees and their families to learn about how their jobs have helped transform their lives. B.J. Denney, a 25-year employee, talked about how she has not only learned valuable work skills, but also some basics, like “learning how to print my name better.”

“It’s a blessing to me. Vector is a blessing to me,” said Denney, whose father, Ralph Denney, said the difference that Vector Industries has made on B.J. is “night and day.”

“Intellectually, she would be nothing like she is today if it were not for Vector,” Denney said.

Al Dahler, whose son, Andre, worked at Vector Industries up until the time of his sudden passing in 2012, talked about his family’s different experiences in other states that they lived in before landing in Waynesboro several years ago.

“It obviously takes a lot of resources to keep an organization like this going. But people who are handicapped have to have a place in our society, because I know if they are like Andre, they would be miserable if they didn’t have a place to go and work. And so certainly, it’s a place that deserves to be supported,” Dahler said.

And this is where Vector Industries is a value to the local community.

Vector Industries contributes significantly to our local economy – both directly through its employees and indirectly through partnering with businesses, large and small, allowing them to expand and increase output with low overhead,” Graham said. “And we provide opportunities for people with disabilities to be able to earn a paycheck, develop themselves physically and intellectually, and perhaps most importantly, to gain a sense of self-worth.”

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