Wine Shipper Aids Autistic Adults

California program educates and employs, handles direct shipping economically

by Jane Firstenfeld
California Autism Foundation
Workers pack shipments of One Hope wines at the California Autism Foundation's Custom Assembly and Packaging facility in Richmond, Calif.
Richmond, Calif. -- In an era when direct shipping is increasingly vital for many wineries, a Richmond program that teaches and employs high-functioning autistic adults is providing fulfillment services at discount rates. The California Autism Foundation (CAF) fulfills orders for a variety of businesses; it’s worked with Foster’s Beringer Winery for about 10 years, according to the foundation's CEO, John Visbal.

In its 60,000-square foot Richmond warehouse, the Custom Assembly and Packaging (CAP) program employs some 60-70 adults with autism spectrum disorders, who are trained and supervised for each individual task. During slack times, when there might not be enough work to go around, the employees receive continuing education through CAF’s school, with licensed teachers and vocational counselors to help develop the social skills with which they typically have “a tough time,” Visbal told Wines & Vines.

Assembling and disassembling packaging, sealing, shrink-wrapping, labeling and the like are the kind of repetitive, detail work that “might be boring to others but is ideally suited for our people,” Visbal said.

Janice Gorton, CAF director of development, added, “These are high-functioning adults, very trustworthy and reliable.” The work enhances their senses of self-esteem. For some, CAP will be a career; others may eventually find more mainstream employment.

Because most of the workers receive disability benefits, their earnings are limited, and CAP is permitted by the state to pay less than minimum wage, giving clients access to a state-approved discount labor force. Fees are quoted depending on individual projects.

The facility is bonded for wine and approved for food and drug handling by the California Public Health Licensing Board. It includes 21 loading docks and 15 large, insulated storage units ideal for wine inventory.

A satisfied winery client

One Hope Wine, a 20,000-case brand based in the Southern California city of Irvine, has used CAP’s services for all its online orders for about a year, according to COO Blake Petty. Wine is shipped on pallets to CAP, where it’s stored with packaging materials until shipment. CAP quotes charges on an individual basis, depending on volume.

One Hope, which donates 50% of its profits to charitable endeavors including autism, sells the majority of its wines through traditional channels, Petty said, but, like most other wineries, it is now “making a strong push for direct shipping.”

Prior to signing with CAP last year, One Hope had handled its own fulfillment. The current arrangement, Petty said, may not actually reduce expenses, but it costs no more than maintaining the requisite facilities and personnel in-house and supports One Hope’s beneficent mission. “I’ve been to the facility,” Petty said. “What they do is fantastic.

“It’s taken work off our plate, and the money is going to a great cause,” he added. “And, it’s great PR.” He suggested, “For more traditional businesses, it’s a way to be socially responsible. We hope it can grow.”

To inquire about CAP services, contact Janice Gorton at (510) 758-0433, ext. 107 or e-mail jgorton@calautism.org.
Posted on 08.05.2010 - 09:39:57 PST
....what you are doing is a very good thing...i mother of an autistic kid, will like to see other corporations do the same; to benefit many of our people afflicted with this condition...thank you!!
cape coral, FL USA