Kevin Vincent and Tony Farinella’s Vision for The Vocation Depot is a look inside the journey of starting and scaling a nonprofit organization.
To understand the true nature of The Vocation Depot, you should first take a good look at its founders. President Kevin Vincent and CEO Tony Farinella grew up together. Friends since elementary school, the two spent their days surfing and playing sports like most kids, and enlisted in the military following their high school graduation. From their respective service, both grew to have an even deeper appreciation for veterans and the sacrifices and challenges that come with military service. Kevin Vincent, in particular, continued to serve nearly 12 years in the military before entering the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program after suffering a service-related injury. While a client of the VR, Vincent was encouraged by his own coach to become a Job Coach. But at the same time, he found himself frustrated by the lack of employment agencies that helped people with disabilities find jobs. There was, in his eyes, a widening chasm in the employment landscape: a lack of organizations dedicated to assisting those with disabilities to find and maintain employment that was not just gainful, but meaningful.
Meanwhile, Tony Farinella had pursued a career as a healthcare administrator following his six years of military service. When Vincent brought up the trend at play within disability employment resources, the lifelong friends felt a call to action. Farinella had an understanding of healthcare and business; Vincent, an experience with disability services as both a recipient and provider. These backgrounds, coupled with their shared respect for veterans and a deep compassion for those with disabilities, built the necessary foundation for their partnership. With these tools, the lifelong friends set out to meet the needs of their community.
In 2013, Vincent and Farinella founded The Vocation Depot, a nonprofit employment services organization based in Plant City, Florida. The organization’s mission was simple: To help people with disabilities find meaningful career opportunities throughout Florida. After two years of research and planning, they were ready to take on clients. Originally, just two types of services were offered in their then-respective cities of Tampa and Ft. Lauderdale. These initial services were Employment Services (or ES) and Supported Employment (SE). The former is overseen by the organization’s Employment Specialists, who work with their assigned clients on needs-specific employment goals such as interview skills and help with resumes or applications. SE services offer additional and ongoing support for individuals with more significant disabilities, with a focus on productivity, social integration, and utilizing the client’s specific skills.
While The Vocation Depot continues to offer ES and SE services, the organization has since expanded its programs to offer a range of diverse opportunities to meet the myriad needs of its clients. On the Job Training and Pre-Placement Training provide additional paths to employment for adults. Youth Services designed for students and young adults aged 14 to 21 have also been added to the repertoire. Such services include Job Exploration Counseling, Work Readiness Training, Career Camp, and Paid Work-Based Learning Experience. This past summer, TVD held its first Career Camp throughout Florida virtually for students aged 14 to 21. These camps help students with IEPs (Individual Education Plans) and 504 Plans prepare for the next step in their lives, whether it be the move from high school to postsecondary education, or straight into the workforce. TVD looks forward to hosting more Career Camps in the future.
The expansion of the organization has been geographical in nature as well, with twenty different Florida counties being serviced by the ever-growing TVD team. The Vocation Depot has served more than 3,000 individuals with developmental, physical, and behavioral disabilities from Miami to Palm Beach, from Tampa Bay/St. Pete to Melbourne/Cocoa.
The Vocation Depot represents more than just a beacon of hope for those with disabilities. Vincent and Farinella recognize that workplace inclusivity is what their organization aspires to achieve. By partnering with companies who chose to embrace the different needs and abilities of disable workers, TVD hopes to encourage a broader change in the workforce, to a type of diversity that often lags behind others. But the cofounders have also acknowledged that true inclusivity must start internally. Farinella and Vincent have worked to create an organization where workers from a diversity of ages, perspectives, gender identities, races, abilities, and skill sets can work together. In fact, they find it benefits the company on more than just a morale-level; it can eliminate a team’s blind spots and drive innovation. Farinella notes that many of TVD’s successful hires have personal experiences caregiving for family members with special needs or an aging parent. This experience with navigating the healthcare and social work system has echoed that of Farinella and Vincent’s, and the effect those experiences have created. For the people behind The Vocation Depot, the passion for helping others runs deep precisely because of these experiences.
The Vocation Depot’s journey from its inception to its present-day operations is a remarkable testament to the power of vision, collaboration, compassion, and a personal commitment to community service. Kevin Vincent and Tony Farinella’s friendship has evolved into a powerful altruism that has transformed the lives of thousands of individuals with disabilities throughout Florida, and the hundreds of employers and employees who work alongside them. As the organization looks toward the future, its founders and team remain dedicated to their vision of a world where everyone has the opportunity to build a meaningful career and lead a fulfilling life, regardless of their disability.
Kevin Vincent and Tony Farinella’s Vision for The Vocation Depot was first posted at 501c3.buzz
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