Didlake Inc. is more than a nonprofit organization. The Manassas-based concern is a tightly run part of the local business community, mirroring its for-profit neighbors. Unlike many such organizations, Didlake is looking for contracts, not charity, says Rex Parr, Didlake president and chief executive
Didlake provides education, training and employment possibilities for adults with disabilities.
Last year, 782 people were enrolled at Didlake, with 254 of them working in jobs in the competitive market, jobs for which people with disabilities had to undergo an interview process and compete for placement. Others are employed at work centers at Didlake sites in Manassas, Alexandria and Remington in Fauquier County.
The centers are small businesses set up by Didlake to provide work for the people with severe disabilities who cannot compete in the mainstream job market. At the Manassas office, workers run a mail center. In Alexandria, they run a microfilm service, and in Remington, a grounds maintenance business.
Didlake employees earned wages and benefits that exceeded $6.5 million last year, according to the organization. This year, Didlake had a budget of $12 million. Most of it, about 83 percent, came from the small businesses and contracts. Didlake is paid just like any other contractor and in turn pays people who were placed in a job.
Fifteen percent of the annual budget comes from fees for job site support. Within the rehabilitation services group at Didlake, people are dedicated to finding jobs in local businesses and industry. Didlake is paid a fee for that assistance.
The other 2 percent to 3 percent of the budget comes from annual donations.
In the organization's most recent contract, Didlake won the right to operate mail room services for the FBI's J. Edgar Hoover Building. In the past, employees at the FBI got only one delivery of mail per day. Now they are receiving their mail six times a day.
Didlake also provides about 200 employees to work at the Pentagon, serving as the janitorial staff on three floors. Didlake employees also run the mail room for two buildings of the Department of Energy
In addition to placement, Didlake provides on-the-job training and support for people who have entered the competitive job market. A job coach goes with Didlake workers to interviews to help them through the process, at no expense to the hiring company.
Didlake has not done much nonprofit fund-raising, because the company does not want to build its image as a charity, but rather to focus on the abilities of its workers.
Companies that hire Didlake workers pay the same rate as they would for workers without disabilities. However, sometimes two workers might have to be hired for a job to help make up for reductions in productivity resulting from a disability that slows a worker down or keeps him from performing certain tasks.
The federal government is the biggest employer of Didlake workers, Parr said. Working for the government traditionally has been a good opportunity for Didlake employees, offering them better benefits and pay than does private industry. Those jobs are not a handout, though. Didlake has to compete for the contract like any other business.
Didlake is also part of the local community. Parr served as president of the Prince William County-Greater Manassas Chamber of Commerce, was past president of the Manassas Rotary Club and serves on the board of the Manassas business council, helping to put Didlake on the radar screens of area businesses.
Didlake has a contract to provide all the custodial services at Manassas Mall, including exterior landscaping, parking lot sweeping, food court cleaning and common area cleaning.
"They do an outstanding job and have been a delight to work with over the years," said Alice Jones, general manager of Manassas Mall.
Didlake employees have been working at the mall for five to seven years, she said.
Didlake won the contract with the mall after outbidding other companies. "They gave us the lowest bid and did a fantastic job," Jones said.
"I never looked at them as a charity because they have really dedicated employees who take pride in their work," Jones said. "When they get paid, you know they will be coming back the next day."
CAPTION: Linda Riley, above, sorts letters in the mail room of the Didlake office in Manassas. Patty Glowicki, far left, and Deb Crespo fold and label brochures to be sent from the mail center. The nonprofit company has more than 782 employees at its three centers and working in outside jobs. The centers are small businesses that provide work for the people with severe disabilities who cannot compete in the mainstream job market.