Columbia Ability Alliance, formerly Columbia Industries started helping people in 1963 as the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Benton and Franklin Counties.

The History of Columbia Ability Alliance, Formerly Columbia Industries

The Columbia Ability Alliance story is one of evolution, perseverance, innovation and an unwavering commitment to empower individuals with barriers to achieve personal success and contribute to a more accessible and equitable community.

Columbia Ability Alliance, formerly Columbia Industries started helping people in 1963 as the United Cerebral Palsy Association of Benton and Franklin Counties.  Families and advocates united with a shared purpose—to improve the lives of individuals with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. Options for employment and social integration were few and far between, so we set out to change that. The organization focused on providing employment and training, rehabilitation, and commercial operations to provide life-enhancing services for individuals with disabilities.

What started as a modest initiative soon grew into a force for change, and for decades, the agency focused on and specialized in providing vocational training and on-site employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. These training and employment opportunities encompassed a variety of industries, leading the agency to change its name to Columbia Industries in 1981. Ventures included an on-site woodshop, where employees created pallets, tree spreaders, and shipping containers, to commercial laundry services, where over two million pounds of sheets, towels, and pillowcases were processed for hospitals, hotels, and other commercial customers each year. The agency also operated mobile janitorial services, a wine storage facility, gift box assembly, and Shop CI, a thrift store where individuals with disabilities could earn a paycheck by organizing donations, pricing items to sell, greeting customers, and performing many other retail-related job tasks.

As the supported employment landscape changed, our focus shifted from sheltered employment to opportunities for integrated employment within our local community. No longer is it standard to employ individuals with disabilities at one location in limited roles; the focus is now on developing enriching, engaging community-based employment for all.

With this belief in mind, as the agency celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2023, we paused to reflect on our rich history. During this time, we also finalized a strategic plan to guide us into the next phase of growth, which included the decision to rebrand Columbia Industries to better align with the heart of our mission. Our journey continues to evolve as we embrace our new identity to take us into the next 60 years and beyond: Columbia Ability Alliance.

Columbia Ability Alliance is more dedicated than ever to creating a better Tri-Cities community for all. Today, we operate five nonprofit mission services designed to support and empower individuals with unique abilities and life barriers on their journeys to independence and personal success. We are proud to be industry-leading providers of employment services, specialized job and life skills training, career opportunities, a social enrichment center, and connections to vital community resources. As a registered 501(c)(3) organization, we rely on public support and donations, while also operating successful commercial ventures as a social enterprise to help sustain our mission services. Learn more about our services by clicking the button below. 

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