Univest Market President Mike Fitzgerald Is Passionate About Nonprofits
As he prepares for his retirement at the end of the month, Michael Fitzgerald, the Market President for East Penn and New Jersey at Univest Bank, is taking time to focus on organizations that are near and dear to his heart.
Having grown up in Holland in Bucks County, Fitzgerald has been able to use his home area as a base for several nonprofit organizations that he started with longtime associate and friend, Brian Damiani, with an emphasis on giving employment opportunities to intellectually and developmentally delayed (IDD) adults.
“We hope we can offer a sense of community to our employees. We know they are very proud of their work.”
Under the parent company ABLE Force, Fitzgerald and his business partner, who is also retired, operate four different companies:
Classic Rock Auto Detailing was the first venture, starting small with limited detail capabilities, but has blossomed into a full auto detailing operation. After two landlords at other locations gave the owners issues over renting to a company that was employing adults with disabilities, the detailing operation found its home in a 4,000-square-foot building on Second Street Pike in Richboro, where it still works out of today.
“I always say that God puts us in the right spots all the time,” Fitzgerald said.
In 2021, the business partners purchased a small California company called Requip’d, which repurposes broken hockey sticks from the NHL, AHL, NCAA, and other leagues, as well as manufactures of hockey sticks such as Warrior Hockey.
“We take those broken hockey sticks, and we convert them into barbecue sets, bottle openers, snow brushes, plungers, coasters and other products,” Fitzgerald said. “We make some really unique items from those sticks. They make great gifts, awesome giveaways for golf outings and corporate events.”
The next year, the business partners started Able Force Fulfillment, which assembles boxes for a pharmacy. The operation currently assembles 1,800 boxes a week.
Their fourth nonprofit, Shredable, was founded the same year. It is a bonded shredding company that works for local small businesses and individuals.
Altogether, the nonprofits employ between 12 to 15 adults. The employees work anywhere from four hours and to 32 hours.
“We run the gamut of diversity within our workforce from high-functioning adults to the lower functioning adults. We create processes that enable our employees to have success.” Fitzgerald said.
Both Fitzgerald and his business partner have family members who have disabilities, so being able to employ IDD adults has been a fulfilling endeavor for the both of them outside of their careers.
Adults with these types of disabilities face a high unemployment rate, as well as something called “the cliff,” where support from the state, county, and school districts typically cut off support at the age of 21, leaving these adults to go out into the real world with little assistance. Through nonprofits like the ones he has founded, Fitzgerald hopes that this will offer more opportunities to those who need them the most.
Both Mike and Brian hope to increase their number of employees to 20 by next year, as well as expanding all of their operations.
“We really believe we have the opportunity to grow the business and provide even more employment opportunities.”
Learn more about Fitzgerald at Univest Bank.
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