Begins with Disability Rights Advocacy…
DON Processing, Inc. is the newest iteration of the group of affiliated companies operating under the DON moniker.
All DON companies share the same mission initially set forth by DON Processing, Inc.’s co-founder, Chris Lloyd: To generate local economic development with an emphasis on assisting persons with disabilities to live as independently as they choose.
Following medical retirement from the US Navy in 1998, DON founder Chris Lloyd became active in the Independent Living Movement, which champions the rights of people with disabilities to choose to live independently. Chris created Disability Options Network (DON) in 2002 in Lawrence County, PA as a Center for Independent Living (CIL), providing disability rights advocacy and community-based services initially in 4 counties.
In 2005, recognizing the limited federal financial support offered to CILs, Chris created a second organization, DON Services, Inc., as an additional funding source for Disability Options Network (DON).
DON Services, Inc. is a non-profit corporation and the largest of the DON entities. This company enabled the CIL to grow to serve 9 counties and address the tremendous need facing persons with disabilities as they transition from institutional living to more independent, self-directed lives.
DON Services, Inc., a waiver service provider, offers in-home attendant care under the CSPPPD programs OBRA, Independence COMMCARE, in addition to Private Pay, Veterans services and ACT 150 programs. DON employs 1,000 people, providing services in nine counties and currently expanding to reach the total of 27 counties in which it is licensed to operate. This will give DON a geographic footprint stretching from Lake Erie to West Virginia.
As DON has grown, the tremendous scope of the issues in our region became clear.
Which Led to Affordable Housing…
Chris observed the growing number of blighted properties and vacant houses in New Castle (over 800 dwellings on the demolition list) knowing full well that thousands of persons with disabilities remained in nursing homes or in sub-standard housing.
In 2011, DON Enterprise, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation was added to the DON family. DON Enterprise, Inc., was formed to expand DON’s mission to address the need for affordable, universal housing.
DON Enterprise, Inc., was the first successful applicant for Federal Home Loan Bank funding in the local area in over 22 years. DON Enterprise. Inc. has acquired over 58 properties, and is currently constructing 17 new homes, with seven successfully completed and sold to date.
And Business District Revitalization…
Acquisitions include the 77,000 square foot ‘Central Building’, located in downtown New Castle, Pennsylvania, as well as five additional buildings with over 180,000 additional square feet. These buildings are in various stages of renovation, with PA CareeerLink as an anchor tenant.
In addition to offering mixed-use residential housing, these buildings will house several other DON entities, including DON Reclaim. DON Reclaim’s mission is to support and promote conservation while offering employment by selling used and salvaged construction materials at a fraction of the cost of new materials.
Driven by a Core Team with Talent, Commitment and Vision…
All of Don affiliates are managed and operated by a team of professionals under the organizational entity, DON Management, LLC. DON Management, LLC lends its legal, accounting, insurance, information technology and human resource expertise to the successful operation of every DON entity. While each entity is a stand alone business, the common denominator running through each corporation is the core management expertise offered by DON Management, LLC.
Which Brought Us to Hemp…
With long-time colleague and co-founder, Philip Berezniak, Chris was determined to invest in and build the processing infrastructure for industrial hemp fiber production, bringing the same opportunity to local farmers that the other DON affiliates bring to their western PA communities.
The partners have been active in the hemp industry since the passage of the 2014 Farm Bill. They are excited to bring industrial hemp back to Pennsylvania and the region as a great rotational cash crop that will provide new valuable opportunities and emerging markets for western Pennsylvania’s local farmers and businesses.
Understanding how quality raw material will impact results, DON launched its Hemp Test Acres Program in 2019. In 2020, the program expanded to six farmers testing three varieties in two states with the support of Extension staff of Penn State University and The Ohio State University. In parallel, DON has been developing a diverse end-user pipeline through research collaborations and projects showcasing the uses of hemp. We have a strong foundation in place to launch this business and be ready at the right time for the coming explosion of market demand.
“The recipe for success is replicable and scalable when inspired leadership, community buy-in and smart investments coalesce around a common vision. What is different, in my view, about our approach is that we built the foundation layers first, which took time because we did it organically without incurring debt. We learned a lot and can help others to do the same critical foundation work, but probably faster by learning from our experience.”