By Laurie Paolicelli
Relax. Nothing is Under Control.
Lisa Kaylie lives by these words. In case she needs reminding, there’s a plaque in her office reiterating it.
Lisa is Executive Director of Extraordinary Ventures, a non-profit that was founded on the core belief that adults with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and intellectual disability (IDD), are capable of doing meaningful work and being excellent employees.
Lisa is the mother of a son on the autism spectrum and says he has been one of the greatest gifts in her life, and one that has presented her teachable moments every day. “It is important to know that there are some things in life that we cannot change no matter how hard we try. Instead of focusing on changing people, we can learn to celebrate and benefit from differences. I can say that, literally, each and every day is completely unique.There are no humdrum, monotonous, or boring days; each one brings something new, a different challenge, or a varied perspective.”
Extraordinary Ventures is located in Chapel Hill and is best known for its public facing event center on Elliott Road, across from Whole Foods. What people don’t realize is that Extraordinary Ventures is an umbrella organization that operates many businesses that employ a neurodiverse workforce. Just some of these businesses include:
Extraordinary Laundry Service
Local student, residential, and commercial wash/dry/fold laundry service with weekly pickup and delivery to the UNC campus and the Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Durham area.
Beautiful handmade premium scented candles, soaps, and other artisan gifts created by their inclusive workforce. Wholesale and corporate orders are welcome.
Extraordinary Office Solutions
Professional office services for local businesses, including bulk mailing, fulfillment, shredding, and more, utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and processes for fast, dependable service.
Simple Clean crew provides professional interior bus cleaning and detailing for the Chapel Hill Transit bus fleet.
Blue Hill Event Center
A premium, flexible modern event center, ideal for everything from parties and celebrations to business meetings and conferences.
A recent “Refresh” project has included overhauling the event space and adding modern technologies, board rooms, a kitchen for caterers and all the amenities needed for groups, special events, weddings, and reunions.
Renamed, The Blue Hill Event Center, the new Extraordinary Ventures venue offers three types of spaces to accommodate any business event, including a professional Board Room, mid-sized rooms for meetings or breakout sessions, and a Great Hall for conferences and banquets up to 200 people.
But more jobs are needed for those with special needs.
Kaylie says that kids with IDD and ASD often get lots of attention while in the school system but then after that they go unnoticed. “Once leaving the supportive environment of the school system, adults with IDD and ASD “fall off the cliff” into an adulthood with few services, community supports, or job prospects,” she says. “Neurodiverse adults who are not employed in an encouraging workplace often lose vital skills and their emotional well-being significantly declines.”
“A serious employment gap exists for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorder,” Kaylie says. “As a result of negative stigma, the traditional job market rarely taps this pool of talent even though they are excellent employees.”
One in 6 – nearly 15 percent – of children in the U.S. live with a developmental disability. All need specialized education and care to reach their full potential.
“Working with individuals with special needs brings with it a host of unique challenges and opportunities,” says Kaylie. “The people I work with make every day fulfilling, and I know our work is making a positive impact and helping each individual to grow, gain skills and work towards independence.”
Remembering that everything Extraordinary Ventures does serves a greater purpose in life, helps me see the bigger picture. “Most of all, working with a population that many people are unfamiliar with – has enabled me to see the world through a different set of eyes.”
For more information: https://extraordinaryventures.org
To book an event: https://bluehilleventcenter.com
Laurie Paolicelli is the Executive Director of the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.