By Andrea Flores

DENVER (CBS4) – Eighty percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. are without a job, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That statistic includes people in Colorado, but a local nonprofit is changing their lives by putting their unique skills to work.

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Day in and day out, Kian Phair takes apart hard drives at Blue Star Recyclers in Denver, piece by piece. He averages 25 to 60 hard drives a day, but isn’t letting his autism get in the way of setting goals.

“My record goal is 500 hard drives disassembled and shredded,” Kian said.

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Blue Star is a nonprofit electronics recycler that employs adults with disabilities.

“They do well with systematic black and white, step-by-step work,” said Sam Morris, a Chief Operating Officer for Blue Star. “A neurotypical person might come in and get sick of doing the same thing over and over, and get lazy, and skip steps. They’re really methodical. They come in and do a great job every single day.”

Kian started working here three years ago, and hasn’t missed a day on the job ever since. He’s made relationships with people just like him along the way.

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“I made friends with Ian, Raymond, James, Matthew, Alejandro,” Kian said.

Alejandro Cabral works in the warehouse. He has a learning disability and was unable to hold down a job, until now.

“It makes me feel good. In the past, I feel like at my other jobs, I didn’t get much accomplished, but here I actually am.”

Blue Star started with four employees in Colorado Springs. Since then, they’ve expanded to 42 employees with locations in Boulder and Denver. They’re not just creating local jobs, they’re also leaving an impact on the environment.

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“We’ve recycled over 17 million pounds of electronics. You’re looking at a huge amount of greenhouse gases that are diverted,” Morris said. “This is all material that could’ve ended up in a landfill, instead its getting ethically recycled.”

And while some might find the tasks at Blue Star tedious, these employees believe the magic of going through the motions gives them a place to belong.

“You can actually have a job and be treated equally,” Alejandro said.

Blue Star Recyclers is expanding. They plan to open their first out-of-state location in Chicago next year. They hope to take their business model of hiring adults with disabilities around the world.

LINK: Blue Star Recyclers

Andrea Flores is a reporter for CBS4. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @AndreaFloresTV.


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