Welcoming a new baby and starting a new company within three months of each other made 2005 a big year for Jonathan Kendrick and his family. Digital Technology Partners of Conyers was off to a roaring start and serving a growing list of clients. But baby Elijah John was not doing so well.
It had been a difficult pregnancy for Melissa Kendrick, and when baby Eli was born Oct. 16, 2005, he came into this world with a heart defect and Down syndrome.
“The next year was spent being more of a nurse than a parent, feeding tubes, medications and two heart surgeries for Eli,” Jonathan Kendrick said. “Our lives would never be the same.”
Eli has grown up with a number of issues, his father said, including sensory processing problems, sleep disorders, being non-verbal, having behavioral issues and oppositional defiant disorder. And then when he turned 8 years old, the child was diagnosed with autism.
“It didn’t really shock us, but it was still devastating,” Kendrick said.
However, he said he is thankful for all the resources that have helped Eli and his family cope and deal with the many struggles his son has had to face.
“He is doing so well and has come so far,” Kendrick said, adding that he is proud of his son. “He has a wonderful personality outside of these challenges and continues to get better every day.”
Kendrick, who lives in McDonough, said his son and many others like him have numerous resources available to them until they age out of the public school system when they turn 21.
“After 21, there are few programs available for the growing number of adults with special needs,” he said. “I want to do something about it. I have always been passionate about computers and technology and hoped that my sons, Elijah and Gavin, my youngest, might follow this passion as well.”
With the lack of adult resources and with his desire to have Eli work with computers, Kendrick came up with an idea to develop a new division for his company, Digital Technology Partners (DTP), which is a full-service computer company serving the dental industry throughout the U.S.
“The concept is simple, but the impact is great,” he said. “The program will provide a recycling center for DTP’s clients and other dental offices and businesses to properly dispose of unwanted electronics. DTP will employ adults with special needs to dismantle such electronics and prepare them for either scrap or reuse. We will simply call the division Work4Eli.”
Located in DTP’s facility in Suite 500 at 371 Gees Mill Business Pkwy. in Conyers, Work4Eli already employs three adults with special needs with hopes of employing even more as the project grows. While DTP is specific to the dental field, Work4Eli recycles e-waste (electronic waste) for anyone who needs it, Kendrick said.
“We are wanting to connect with anyone, including business, government or individuals who have e-waste that can help us grow this program in Rockdale County,” he added. “We want to do great things in Rockdale County and with the help of others, there is no limit to what this program can become.”
Kendrick cites reports that show more than 60% of e-waste ends up in landfills, where toxic materials, such as mercury and lead seep into the environment. Work4Eli’s disposal process includes the proper separation of materials and their delivery to the appropriate refineries, he said, adding that compliance is a big issue for dental and other industries in e-waste disposal and Work4Eli follows all mandatory requirements, as well as providing documentation certifying the items’ safe disposal.
Work4Eli accepts any information technology-related equipment, such as computer servers, workstations, switches, routers, printers, monitors, scanners, phone systems, audiovisual equipment and backup equipment, to name a few.
Since it began in March 2018, Work4Eli is already making an impact with 27,788 pounds of metal recycled; 2,776 pounds of hard drives; 4,169 pounds of power supplies; 1,594 pounds of DVD drives; 1,234 pounds of heatsinks (heat exchangers in electronics); 3,218 pounds of UPS (battery) backups; 2,644 pounds of motherboards; 1,368 pounds of scrap wire; 93 pounds gold RAM (random access memory) and 54 pounds of processors.
Kendrick said 100% of the parts handled by Work4Eli make it to the appropriate refineries and 0% end up in landfills.
The organization charges a small fee for equipment pickup, Kendrick added, saying that Work4Eli is self-sustained and all excess revenue is funded directly back into the program. As a minimal processing facility, he said employees do not work with hazardous materials on site. He said protective equipment is provided, as well as training and supervision.
In May 2018, Georgia’s Employment First Act was signed into law to promote employment as the first and preferred option offered to people with disabilities receiving government-funded services. In states where Employment First has been implemented, employment rates of people with disabilities have increased significantly, Kendrick said.
“Digital Technology Partners’ Work4Eli e-waste employment program solves two of the world’s problems: improper disposal of electronic waste and limited employment opportunities for special needs adults, while also providing a resource to our clients for recycling IT equipment,” according to Shawn Adkins, Work4Eli manager.
Individuals, organizations and businesses throughout the community are encouraged to support Work4Eli by bringing electronic waste to its Gees Mill Business Parkway location, or for larger loads, set up an appointment for pickup. Adkins said as the program grows, there will be more opportunities to hire a greater number of adults with special needs. More information and forms are available at the website www.dtpartners.com.
“If successful, when Eli gets older, he might have a job waiting for him, as well,” Kendrick says of his now-teenage son.
“Our mission is to create long-lasting career opportunities for the special needs adults we employ. We are not a training facility; we are a real business that provides real jobs to real people in need. The more money we can make, the more jobs we will provide.”