North Central News

New business has unique partnership

By Teri Carnicelli
North Central resident Betsy Durkin knew she was ready to make a change in her career path. As someone with a passion for community service, she wondered if there was something out there that could give her that same level of satisfaction in the workplace that she received through volunteering.

Like an answer to a prayer, Durkin found Quality Connections.

Lesli Stern, program manager at Valleylife (far right), and Valleylife member Chris deliver office supplies, printer ink and copy paper to Cathie Hanna McClellan, director of the Early Care and Education Center at Desert Christian Fellowship, and her administrative assistant, Amy Prigmore (submitted photo).

Lesli Stern, program manager at Valleylife (far right), and Valleylife member Chris deliver office supplies, printer ink and copy paper to Cathie Hanna McClellan, director of the Early Care and Education Center at Desert Christian Fellowship, and her administrative assistant, Amy Prigmore (submitted photo).

Founded in 1999, Quality Connections (QC) is an Arizona nonprofit corporation that provides employment services to individuals with disabilities and disadvantages in order to increase both their independence and their participation in the community. At its Flagstaff headquarters, QC provides employment and training opportunities in its call center, delivery crew, warehouse, and in manufacturing and testing of QCtoner products, the company’s own brand of remanufactured laser toner cartridges.

Durkin was hired to sell the QCtoner products to state agencies in the Phoenix Metro area. But she was more interested in making a few “quality connections” of her own.

The company had not yet brought its full line of products to the Phoenix Metro area because most of its fulfillment was in Flagstaff. To be able to set up a similar program, with a warehouse and training facilities for those with mental challenges, would take years, they told her.

But what the higher-ups at Quality Connections didn’t know is that Durkin, a Phoenix resident since 1991, had been a member of the Sunnyslope Kiwanis Club for many years and had developed a connection of her own with Cletus Thiebeau of Valleylife, a local not-for-profit organization in Sunnyslope that the Kiwanis Club supports on a regular basis.

Valleylife’s mission is to provide services to individuals with physical or mental disabilities. Among those services is a vocational training program in Valleylife’s on-site warehouse. To Durkin, it seemed like a perfect fit for Quality Connections.

She got to talking with Thiebeau, president and CEO of Valleylife, about her new job and its nonprofit business model. Thiebeau knew right away that this was a potential partnership worth pursuing.

In no time at all, the partnership was formed and Durkin’s job opened up to a whole new world of possibilities. She now is able to sell from Quality Connections’ QCoffice catalog, which features more than 40,000 products and supplies, including general office supplies; printing and scanning equipment; paper, envelopes and folders; kitchen supplies such as paper plates and cups; janitorial supplies; medical supplies; restaurant supplies, and more.

“Orders down here in the Valley will be received, sorted and delivered by Valleylife members,” Durkin explains. QC launched a sort of beta test period in May and things went smoothly, according to Durkin. She is now looking to expand her clientele in the Phoenix area.

Customers don’t need to be large businesses or have to set up some kind of corporate account with QCoffice. Durkin is happy to work with individuals as well as businesses and will set up customized pricing, based on their supply needs. Plus, there is no sales tax, since Quality Connections has a nonprofit business status.

Orders take around 2-3 days to arrive, after first being sent to, then sorted and packaged at the Valleylife facility.

“I loved going on those first deliveries and seeing the enthusiasm the Valleylife clients had for meeting new people providing them with a service,” Durkin says. “I like the idea that what I do makes a difference in people’s lives. It really is, literally, about making quality connections.”

For more information about Quality Connections and its vast array of supplies, visit www.qcoffice.org (note: pricing is general, discounts available), or contact Betsy Durkin at 928-814-8806 or e-mail her at betsyd@qcoffice.org.

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