Todd Solinger has been clean and sober for several months now, having finally gotten the help he needed to kick his alcohol habit.
Now, he and his wife Tara have been working 10-12 hours every day this spring landscaping and mowing yards all over Missoula as supervisors for the Get It Done Crew, a general labor/odd-job group that employs people who have barriers to employment like previous incarceration or problems with addiction.
Recently, three local businesses — ALPS Property and Casualty Insurance Company, PayneWest Insurance and First Security Bank — pitched in to buy a commercial riding lawnmower to make the job easier for the crew.
The mower allows Solinger and his wife, who is also sober for seven months now, to earn a steady paycheck, pay taxes and build up a resume so that they can support their young child.
“I was an automotive tech for 30 years, but my hands were all messed up so I had to find a different line of work than wrenching,” Solinger said. “I couldn’t wrench anymore for a living. So I’ve been looking for work. And unfortunately, I have somewhat of a mental illness where I get really comfortable with things and whatnot and then I just quit."
He said he used alcohol as a coping mechanism.
"When I was self-medicating, it kept it at bay," he said. "When I quit self-medicating, like drinking or doing street drugs, then my brain would go crazy. So then I got diagnosed with a mental illness and got some therapy so I know what’s going on with my brain and now I can focus. I was self-medicating since I was 15 and now I’m turning 53.”
Solinger met Martin NoRunner, the Missoula Works project manager for the Missoula Interfaith Collaborative, a nonprofit made up of individuals and different congregations to help people affected by social challenges. Missoula Works is the organization’s staffing agency, and the Get It Done Crew employs dozens of people with their own unique circumstances. What they didn’t have was a large riding mower for bigger jobs, which is where the three businesses stepped in.
“I think Get It Done is such a cool model since it moves ‘upstream’ to address the challenge of employment for members of our community where the obstacles are otherwise significant,” explained David Bell, the CEO and president of ALPS.
“I see this as different from charity in that it supports a way to make permanent changes in the lives of the recently released from incarceration, and the homeless, with both groups gaining the dignity and self-sufficiency of employment. I consider this an investment as much as I do a gift," he said.
The Get It Done Crew made a presentation to the ALPS Charitable Contribution Committee last year and requested support.
“They have been using gifted and borrowed residential mowers to build their business, and now are ready to take it to the next level,” Bell said. “Because they have built a sustainable business with this model I thought it would be ideal to partner with a few other great employers in our community."
He said he and Kyle Lingscheit, the CEO of Payne West, were talking about it and Lingscheit offered to partner with ALPS.
"We both thought this would resonate with Scott Burke at First Security Bank as well," Bell said. "And just like that, three companies come together in equal shares to buy this commercial mower for the Get It Done Crew. A stimulus, of sorts, for a business that is already proving itself in changing lives and being financially sustainable.”
Solinger said customers can find the Get It Done Crew by visiting micmt.org or by calling NoRunner or Paige Pavalone at 406-926-3400, ext. 304.
Pavalone, the director of Missoula Works, said that businesses who need temporary or permanent employees should call her.
“We’ve employed over 80 people to date,” she said. “Sometimes people at the Poverello Center will see the bright 'Get It Done' T-shirts our day labor crew wears and ask about it. So that’s where a lot of our employees come from. It’s a really cool collaboration with these three businesses as well.”
Missoula is facing a workforce shortage, so there’s no reason why anyone who’s willing shouldn’t be able to find work, especially if they’ve fallen on hard times, said Pavalone.
“(The Get It Done Crew) is also another great example of why Missoula is such an awesome, and different type of, place to live,” Bell said.