Creating Partnerships to Change a Community: Marcfirst and MCLP

Located in the heart of Normal, IL, Marcfirst has become a bridge to a community where those with developmental disabilities can pursue their dreams and desires in a nurturing environment built on dignity and respect.

With decreased governmental funding, Marcfirst developed a janitorial service to employ its clients and gain income to support those clients. One of the Multicultural Leadership Program (MCLP) Class of 2011 projects was to develop a marketing plan for this janitorial service, so that local businesses and organizations would learn of its availability. Thanks to this effort, Marcfirst revised their outreach and helped more firmly establish their service.

“The project developed a plan that focused on the product that the janitorial program provided rather than focusing on disabilities,” said Senior Vice President of Marcfirst, Mary Riddle. “The product provided by the janitorial program is needed in the Bloomington/Normal area.”

When asked why this partnership was so important to Marcfirst, Riddle said, “Marcfirst has to depend on the state for funding. In 2009, there were many cut backs from the state to the agency. Marcfirst needed to do something to not have to rely totally on government funding, so it started a janitorial program. This program was started to bring in revenue to help support programs that were struggling financially.”

While this partnership was extremely beneficial to Marcfirst and the Bloomington/Normal community, the MCLP Class of 2011 saw their achievements on a more personal level. “For MCLP, it was an opportunity to add value to a community because they believed in,” said Sonya Mau, Executive Director of MLCP. “They were able to measure the difference they made.”

As a participant in the MCLP Class of 2013 as well, Riddle is able to see the importance of the partnership from both sides. “MCLP has a wealth of knowledge and skills in the students that participate. I feel that MCLP students also take their role in their projects seriously and work very hard to give the project their best efforts,” said Riddle. “I also believe that Marcfirst helped this team understand more about people with disabilities and the funding mechanisms that a nonprofit like ours depends on.  Marcfirst works so well because we look at what can be done, not what can’t be done. We look at the needs of people with disabilities and focus on how we can support them.”

One of the goals of MCLP is to create strong leaders in the community, and Riddle is a proud product of the program. “I met people I never would have met,” she said. “I became more aware of whom I was as a leader at Marcfirst and realized I was where I needed to be in my life and career, working and advocating for people with disabilities. After graduating, I knew I needed to continue on with MCLP. I am proud to say I am a Board Member and am on the Community Involvement team. I have made lasting friends with my MCLP partnership.”

Former Marcfirst CEO Rick Glass stated that overall it was a great partnership. “It was an opportunity to re-introduce Marcfirst and build more relationships, especially in the community,” he said. It was a great way to get project work done.”