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Giving - A Special Section

Chair hockey for charity

Tournament benefits adults with autism

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Goodmans Interior Structures recently hosted the 2016 Goodmans Chair Hockey Tournament to benefit First Place AZ, a sister nonprofit to Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). Previous events – the company held similar tournaments from 2002 to 2006 – benefitted SARRC, an agency that provides support for children with autism and their families.

Today, many of those same children, now grown up, are being served by First Place AZ. Proceeds from the event will benefit the First Place capital campaign for First Place-Phoenix, a new residential property being developed at Third Street and Catalina Drive.

The chair hockey teams dressed in coordinated uniforms, such as ninjas, sharks, hip-hop dancers and other themes. They positioned themselves inside a small arena with hockey sticks in-hand. The arena was the Goodmans showroom in Phoenix, which was empty during a renovation.

Once the whistle blew, players began rolling around in office chairs chasing after the puck to shoot and score. It was a flurry of action with players rolling around as fast as they could and their supporters cheering them on from the sidelines. A disc jockey played throughout the night, flashing lights colored the arenas and volunteers from First Place helped facilitate the event.

Dozens of businesses sponsored and promoted the tournament and teams of local interior design companies and similar businesses participated in the games.

A company culture of giving

Since his family business was founded in 1931, the company’s leadership has supported local nonprofits and volunteer work, according to President and CEO Adam Goodman. In the business’s early years, they started a monthly foster clothing exchange to aid low-income families find clothing. In addition, “oftentimes when we deliver furniture, customers [ask] us to move out the replaced furniture as it is no longer of use to the family. Similar businesses often sell this used furniture, but we began donating it for the local community,” Goodman said.

In addition to the Goodmans Chair Hockey Tournament, Goodmans also hosts several other community programs such as “Goodmans Eye for the Good Guys” where the business selects the executive director of a nonprofit who is most deserving of a $20,000 office renovation annually. To learn more about the company’s community programs and charity work, visit goodmans.com/community.

Nonprofit showcase

Before the chair hockey competition started, while everyone was enjoying the food trucks and open bars, booths were set up with local businesses connected to First Place AZ and SARRC.

Beneficial Beans, a social enterprise of SARRC aimed at providing teens and adults with autism job experience through internships, was one venture showcased. According to Beneficial Beans Garden Coordinator Sarah Grone, SARRC and First Place are succeeding in providing jobs to their enrollees through social enterprises like Beneficial Beans. “Ninety percent of adults with autism in the U.S. are unemployed,” said Grone. “But we’re changing that as 78 percent of adults enrolled in the First Place Transition Academy are employed after graduation.”

Helping adults with autism

SARRC is a nonprofit organization founded to aid parents seeking help with the challenges autism presents. As SARRC grew, they started the research aspect of their nonprofit, and also began a sister nonprofit called First Place AZ.

First Place is a local residential community developed to provide vocational-skills training, interpersonal-skills development and other resources for the residents with autism to fully engage in the Phoenix community.

There are three components of First Place AZ: First Place Transition Academy for students; First Place independent living apartments for adults with autism and other special needs; and the First Place Leadership Institute for training, education, research and advancements in public policy.

While at the First Place Transition Academy, adults with autism live in independent housing in a location near community resources such as Gateway Community College, the Phoenix Metro light rail system and local businesses that often employ First Place graduates.

The First Place facility has 50 suites where certified graduate clinicians and professionals in the field of teaching vocational and life skills work with the residents. The enrollees take 34 semester length courses at Gateway taught by SARRC staff members. The classes focus on financial management, meal preparation, budgeting and other topics important to day-to-day living.

“In addition to the classes, they are learning to implement what they’ve studied by navigating local transportation, getting along with their roommates and taking care of themselves and their own needs,” said Denise Resnik, cofounder of SARRC and founder of First Place AZ.

According to Resnik “Goodmans has demonstrated their support for this cause in every level of their business, and the culture that they have created to be supportive of our community is truly extraordinary.”

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