Disabled gain jobs at laminate dealership

Pretending he was a burglar trying to break into a house, Kelly Searson picked up a wooden baseball bat and swung it into a window.

The glass shattered but didn't fall out.

Another man threw a ball, then a large rock at the window, with the same result.

"Think of it as window tint on steroids," said Searson, spokesman for ACE Security Laminates of Ottawa, Canada. "This stuff provides safety and security against burglars, bullets and even bombs."

On Guard Glass Laminating Service, which is the local installer for ACE, provides another kind of security to Keystone Area Goodwill Industries. That organization, known for collecting and selling used clothes and household goods, recently opened the laminate dealership to diversify its revenue and provide jobs to disabled people.

"The constant threat of terrorist acts has created some strange bedfellows," said Jan Harms, Goodwill's director of marketing and special events. "Organizations that typically have no relation to security are branching out into businesses that offer protection against everything from bullets to bombs. Goodwill is just one of those organizations."

Sharon Schwab, senior vice president of new ventures for Keystone Area Goodwill Industries, said the Goodwill board recommended that the organization diversify. Two-thirds of its income comes from its 36 stores. The Keystone Area covers Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.

"Goodwill is more than thrift shops," she said. "Seventy percent of people with disabilities in Pennsylvania are unemployed. We want to change that. Many are able to work, but need opportunities. Working gives people self-worth, fulfillment and pride. There's power in the paycheck."

Schwab said that after reviewing several options, Goodwill officials selected On Guard Glass Laminating Service because it "matches our needs. People are security conscious. We want to do commercial, government and residential glass-laminate installations."

Goodwill paid ACE $40,000 for the dealership, which is ACE's first nonprofit dealer, Schwab said. The closest dealership is in Pittsburgh.

The new dealership has an office in the Goodwill corporate headquarters off Cameron Street in Harrisburg. It has three employees but could have up to 20 within five years, with 10 to 12 of those being Goodwill trainees or clients.

Gary McElwain, Goodwill president and CEO, called the new venture a way to help Goodwill meet its "ultimate goal of getting people to work."

Searson said the state has more than 1,800 thefts and burglaries for each 100,000 people. "Glass is the weakest link in the chain of security," he said. "But when laminated glass is struck, it shatters but won't crack."

The transparent window laminate, applied in a thin layer like wallpaper, "is clear, scratch-resistant and able to stop broken glass from flying," he said. The laminate can be applied to existing or new windows.

Before the noisy demonstration recently at Hempt Brothers quarry in Swatara Twp., Searson donned safety goggles and gloves. He and others then whacked three windows with bats, balls and rocks. The glass shattered in a spider-web pattern but never broke away from the window.

600450 Disabled gain jobs at laminate dealership glassonweb.com

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