My first Shelton Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours was at Exceptional Foresters, Inc.  Initially, I thought it might be a company specializing in modern sustainable forestry, but it turns out it is a non-profit that focuses on helping developmentally challenged people find ways to live productive lives with a sense worth and self-esteem.

 
Exceptional Foresters Inc main offices

EFI's story began in 1957, a time many Americans regard as a golden age. Yes, it was a time when an average guy could get a decent paying job right out of high school and in a few years be able to buy a house and car and support a wife and kids on only his income.  It was also a time when decent folk didn't talk about unpleasant realities such as racisim, sexism, and persecution for unpopular religious and/or political views.  One unfortunate class of victims of this "See no evil, Speak no evil" attitude were the developmentally challenged, who were often either institutionalized, or hidden away from view when company came over.

During this period, Bob and Louise Kimbel were raising two mentally retarded sons and they diligently searched for an alternative to shipping their boys off to an institution, or keeping them cloistered at home for the rest of their lives. Their efforts led them to a small government office in Olympia called Education for the Handicapped. The manger of that office explained that there was no education/vocational program for people with mental disabilities and if they wanted one, they would have to create one. He gave them a basic outline on how such a program might be implemented and the Kimbles took that information back to Mason County and set to work building the program they imagined for their sons.

Initially, the work for their wards was mainly in the forestry industry, that being the dominant force in the economy at the time, but today clients are employed in many diverse businesses and organizations. Clients are taught basic skills, not only for job functions, but life skills necessary to live independent lives on their own, if they're equipped for that. Skills such as personal finance management, how to use public transportation, meal preparation and nutrition, and advice for purchasing services and merchandise.

As they celebrate their 60th anniversary, Exceptional Foresters Inc has grown to over 100 clients and a support staff of over 100 as well.

If you would like to support the great work being done at EFI, here are some of the ways you can help....

For more detailed information, check out the EFI website at: https://www.team-efi.org