Working Wonders has been named the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce’s Nonprofit of the Year for 2020.
Founded in 2016 by Brentwood residents Matt Schwab and Emil Geddes, the organization’s mission is to give adults with disabilities choices about where they live, work and play. Working Wonders provides sustainable opportunities to improve their clients’ lives, including work-related programs and opportunities for personal growth, independence and social interaction.
Schwab said he and his fellow board members are inspired by the experiences of their clients and their clients’ family members.
“We have a good board and a really good projection for the future,” said Schwab. “We feel everyone in the community has value, and those who may have to overcome a little more can still count. They go to movies and restaurants and have jobs and families and deserve opportunities to thrive. Our role is to move that along, help these folks achieve their goals.”
Working Wonders has received community support, not just from individuals but from the Chamber and the Rotary Club of Brentwood as well. Chamber president Gerald Johnson said the organization will be highlighted at the chamber’s upcoming “Celebrating Brentwood” dinner on Oct. 21.
“Working Wonders is a terrific young organization whose mission is to assist adults with disabilities in our community,” Johnson said. “They have only been at it for five years, and, yet, they are so effective. As the President of the Chamber, I am pleased to highlight their organization as they continue to lift up so many in the Brentwood area.”
Schwab said he was inspired to begin something for special-needs adults by his son, who had been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. He said there are many resources for students who are still in school, but once they graduate from high school, there is a significant void of services.
“I was concerned about his future and having the opportunities to maximize his potential in life,” Schwab said. “Emil, being on the school board and having a rich history in the community, he could see a need as well.”
The pair visited Opportunity Village in Nevada, where adults with special needs are provided with vocational training, employment, day habilitation and social recreation. They were inspired and decided to bring a slice of what they saw back to Brentwood.
“We started it and it started small, but we focus on three points of emphasis: health and fitness, the arts, and developing work skills,” Schwab said. “From there, we spawn other things like teamwork, personal growth and learning to believe in yourself and all the things that come from that.”
The nonprofit’s initial success has even prompted a location change to gain more space. The group will soon move into its new home in eastern Brentwood with space for all its programs.
Schwab’s wife, Christine Schwab, works as an administrator in Working Wonders. She said though COVID-19 hurt the programming, most services are once again operational.
“We spent this past year, like many businesses, having to reinvent our service,” she said. “For over a year, we met up with our clients on Zoom. We all learned to use technology better, and actually got to know everyone in a different way, playing games, doing fitness and yoga activities, and sharing YouTube videos on various types of work skills. In June of this year, we started meeting in person again, twice a week, and still doing Zoom activities too.”
This month, the Schwabs and the rest of Working Wonders will focus on opening their new location, preparing the space for fitness and art activities, educational computers and other programming.
“Brentwood has been a welcoming place for our program from the moment we opened our doors,” Christine Schwab said. “We love our art teachers, pottery studios, yoga and fitness teachers, who are all local business people. We’ve delivered sandwiches to schools, participated in community events, handed out play programs and volunteered for the library and thrift store.”
For more information on Celebrate Brentwood, or to purchase tickets to the event, call 925-634-3344 or visit https://www.brentwoodchamber.com/.