Purposeful design in Indianapolis seeks to rebuild broken lives

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Purposeful design in Indianapolis seeks to rebuild broken lives

David Palmer couldn’t plan the 2020 COVID-19 crisis when he started a company in 2013 to give work to homeless men.

He was gratefully surprised that Purposeful Design was booming despite last year’s isolation.

The Custom Furniture Shop / Department saw sales increase 12% last year and had sales of $ 1.5 million. The number of employees rose to 16. The personal victories over alcohol or drug abuse are an even better example of the value of the unusual business.

Each story is different, but often times the men were homeless and ended up on Wheeler’s Mission, which takes men through multiple stages of recovery from alcohol abuse. Functional design provides stability and order in your new life. Sometimes men resort to old habits and their colleagues begin to pray for their recovery.

Dewey Titus welds metal for the base of a table Tuesday, April 20, 2021 at Purposeful Design in Indianapolis’s Middle East.  Purposeful Design is a faith-based furniture business that hires men who have experienced homelessness or alcohol and drug abuse.  Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the company posted a 12% increase in sales in 2020.

The goal is not to maximize profits as Palmer is content with being close to breakeven in order to maximize jobs for the men. The organization has a non-profit status through affiliation with the Sagamore Institute.

Revenue from furniture sales covers most of the company’s operating costs. Donors provide capital for expansion and professional training. Several larger companies have become customers / partners of the company, including Elanco, OneAmerica, Eli Lilly, and Indianapolis International Airport. They like the custom-made furniture and help the formerly homeless.

David Palmer is the founder and director of the faith-based furniture business Purposeful Design.

Like other companies, Palmer wasn’t sure what to expect in the pandemic. The company shut down for six weeks a year ago.

“We thought it was safe to send everyone home,” said Palmer. “We wondered if some would go back to old habits, but no one did.” Only three employees received COVID-19 and none had to be hospitalized. “It made us rely more and more on God,” he said. “The Lord kept people clean and strong.”

Palmer notes that men are only returning to their old habits at a rate of 11 percent. The company’s social impact is difficult to measure financially, but one estimate suggests that a chronically homeless person pays $ 35,000 annually in taxpayer expenses. With that number, Purposeful Design could advocate saving taxpayers $ 3 million annually since it began seven years ago.

For example, Zac Bell started abusing alcohol and drugs in his teenage years. With turmoil in his adult marriage and family, he knew he needed to change, but he also enjoyed his addiction on some level.

Friend of David Palmer, he found himself on a slow path of inner spiritual transformation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A job at Purposeful Design was part of that journey as he lost other previous jobs. Gradually he saw himself as a criminal against God’s standards, but saw the penalty for his sins paid by Christ’s death on the cross.

“David started talking to me to make me right and to focus on God,” he recalled. “It was pretty difficult at first. I still wanted to do my own thing. “Palmer gave him Bible verses and prayed with him, sometimes every day. “David hung out with me,” he said.

Bell recently received the company’s Steadfastness Award for perseverance in his job and new life.

The goal is not necessarily for men to work at Purposeful Design for a few months and then move on, although some have found other occupations.

“These people need a long walk instead of a short walk,” Palmer said. “You have to lose a lot of old ways and break new ground – relationships, habits, mindsets, responsibility, behavior. So for our craftsmen, a long walk is much more okay. “

Jesse Slaugh laughs with a colleague as he works in the Purposeful Design workshop in the Middle East of Indianapolis on Tuesday, April 20, 2021.  Purposeful Design is a faith-based furniture business that hires men who have experienced homelessness or alcohol and drug abuse.  Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the company posted a 12% increase in sales in 2020.

Experienced employees also increase the quality and contribute to the competitiveness of the products.

Palmer had more traditional success in the food industry for the first half of his life. In the second half of his life, he pursues what is sometimes called the second end result.

Profit is better than loss, but the higher profit is a change in people’s lives.

Russ Pulliam is the Associate Editor of IndyStar. Follow him on Twitter at [email protected] Email at [email protected]