Wineries, by nature, have always been places of connection, places where people gather to share a bottle of wine or a wine-centered experience. It’s only natural that many wineries have become partners in supporting positive community change. From offering wine baskets at nonprofit silent auctions to holding tasting events with proceeds going to charity, many wineries have demonstrated their willingness to give back to their local communities.
But these three wineries have committed to supporting individuals with disabilities through full-time employment, donations and more.
Great Bend, Kansas
In 1998, Tammy Hammond and her husband started Rosewood Services, an agency that provides access to education, housing, recreational and social outings, vocational training and more to people with developmental disabilities. Today, Rosewood serves over 200 clients in Central Kansas.
Hammond believes that process-oriented work helps people learn. And so, to create meaningful employment opportunities for people with developmental difficulties, she founded Rosewood Winery in 2012.
Winery client employees set goals and make decisions together with their case manager, who is also employed at Rosewood. They also have regular performance evaluations that allow them to reflect on their growth and set new benchmarks. All winery client employees go through a training and onboarding program, and they earn a paycheck for their work.
In 2021, Rosewood bottled 3,000 gallons of wine.
“It has been my dream to make wine,” says Crystal Alkire, who has been a Rosewood client employee for four years. “I’m really thankful I have people who care about me, love me and take me in.”
Alongside 24 fellow client employees, Alkire takes part in the entire process—from wine filtration and bottle sanitation to bottling, labeling and shipping—for over 33 wines.
Alkire’s favorite day is bottling day, when she can see the literal fruits of her labor. For Alkire, the most important part of her job is making people happy and creating wines that customers enjoy.
Each wine is named after a horse in the Rosewood equine therapy program, another service provided to clients and workplace.
Alkire, a horse lover who knows the ins and outs of each horse’s personality, also works on the ranch.
The wines bear names such as Rosita Rooster, a Sangria Zinfandel named after “a flirty brown filly”; Invite the Fox, a Pinot Grigio named for a frisky horse who looks like a Thoroughbred but has “the spirit of a quarter horse”; and Daisy Duke, a Green Apple Riesling whose namesake is a paint pony who is the “apple of the ranch’s eye.”
Alkire’s favorite wine is a Blueberry Pinot Noir called Rooster Jaguar, but she insists she likes the wine for its flavor, not for its namesake.
Now, when trainee employees feel overwhelmed by the challenges of learning a new job, it is Alkire who encourages them by saying, “It’s not your dream to give up. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have started working here.”
Those transferable skills are what allow, at any one time, 20–30% of Rosewood’s client employees to be working toward placement in community jobs. Many times, even those working in community-oriented positions continue working at Rosewood.
“So many times, people with developmental disabilities are put on a shelf, so to speak,” says Michael Dawes, director of public relations of Rosewood Services. “By having a program that inspires people to move on to the next rung, it gives them a sense of purpose.”
Rosewood emphasizes collaborative decision-making and structured independence for its client employees, who also create jams, jellies and honey to sell to their communities.
Dawes’ wish for the world is for people to prioritize providing meaningful opportunities for those with developmental disabilities. He says the key is inviting people with developmental disabilities to connect with the world rather than isolating these populations into “special spaces.”
Rosewood, through the winery and wine cellar, ranch and other ventures, currently serves 120 developmentally disabled individuals. If everyone would pursue the Rosewood mission, Dawes says, “the world would completely change.”
Napa Valley, California
When one of Jake Kloberdanz’s friends was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, he rallied his coworkers to sell wine out of the back of a pickup truck to support his friend’s treatment. In 2007, that desire to give back inspired Kloberdanz, along with five friends, to start ONEHOPE Wine.
Initially, the proceeds from their Chardonnay were designated for breast cancer research, the Merlot for AIDS research and the Cabernet for autism research.
While ONEHOPE does employ a small number of people with disabilities, which they hope to expand, their model is not one of direct support services. Instead, the company donates 10% of all sales to the ONEHOPE Foundation, which started in 2009. The foundation directs its giving to both national and global nonprofits, but it has a special commitment to autism research and supporting mental health efforts for children.
For instance, at the start of the pandemic, ONEHOPE realized that children with disabilities couldn’t access needed therapies via virtual learning. The Holiday Magic program was created to address that need. Parents of children with disabilities can apply for a $2,500 mini-grant for therapy needs. In addition, each family receives a special photo shoot.
“I have the pleasure of calling families to announce they’ve won grants,” says Kristen Shroyer, cofounder, VP of partnerships and head of the ONEHOPE Foundation. “The families get so excited about the photo shoot because so many of them have never had the opportunity to do that.”
In 2021, ONEHOPE directed over $2 million in donations to over 10,000 nonprofits and surpassed $8 million total donations since 2013. ONEHOPE’s mission is resonating with individuals across the country as well. The company sold 90,000 cases of wine in 2021 and its Harvest Party last fall raised $317,000 for CharityWater, a nonprofit organization that brings safe drinking water to people around the world.
ONEHOPE continues to support research and treatment options through Autism Care Today and the Organization for Autism Research. The foundation also awards scholarships to graduating high school seniors with autism to pursue higher education.
In addition, the ONEHOPE Foundation also provides micro-grants to mothers working in hospitality who lost their jobs during the pandemic and supports Napa farmworkers’ access to healthcare.
Aspen Lane Wine Company
In the summer of 2004, Bob and Sonya Evanosky learned that their twin preschool-aged sons, Christopher and John, and their third child, infant Jack, had a terminal genetic condition called metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD). Bob, formerly an airline pilot, spent six months at Duke University while Jack went through experimental transplant treatments.
In the fall of 2010, friends living along Aspen Lane in Aurora, Illinois, invited Bob to make wine with them. They set up shop in Bob’s home so he could participate while caring for the boys. What they didn’t expect was how passionate Bob would become about the science and art of winemaking.
Soon, Bob and Sonya were giving away wine by the case for charities to use as fundraisers. Having formed the Evanosky Foundation in 2005 to lobby for disease screening for newborns, Bob and Sonya were familiar with the challenges facing nonprofits and realized they had an opportunity to make a greater impact.
Aurora had never had a winery, so Bob worked in coordination with the mayor and City Council to write an ordinance that would allow him to receive a license. In 2016, the Aspen Lane Wine Company was born, named after the street where those first batches of homemade wine were produced. Aspen Lane’s primary purpose is to support organizations dedicated to children and adults with disabilities.
“If I loved making golf balls, I could make golf balls to feed this mission,” says Bob. “It just so happens that I love making wine.” Bob and Sonya don’t draw money from the winery to support their family and choose instead to direct as much funding as possible toward the charities they support.
Aspen Lane sells directly to consumers in their wine store and online, but their primary source of fundraising comes from their event space, which nonprofits rent to host fundraising events on site. Once the low overhead costs are covered, all remaining proceeds go to the charity. In addition, Aspen Lane provides private-label wine for offsite fundraising events, auctions, galas and other functions where the wine itself is a money generator. Bob and Sonya hope that this model, particularly during the pandemic, can shift the mindset of donors who are conditioned to give primarily through events, which are often heavy on resources and expense.
For wine purchased directly through the consumer, Aspen Lane decides which nonprofit organization to support, most of which come through word of mouth. Recently, they received a referral through a recreational charity for someone needing to raise $15,000 to purchase a specific van to transport developmentally disabled adults transitioning out of school-aged care. Aspen Lane is working with them to raise money and to develop a marketing plan to spread awareness of the fundraising needs.
In five years, Aspen Lane has supported over 35 charities. For instance, they provide scholarships to students wishing to participate in a local program for dancers with disabilities and they support RAREscience.org, which explores the use of existing pharmaceuticals for rare disease treatment.
Bob and Sonya are as realistic about their children’s futures as they are passionate about their work with Aspen Lane. Their son John died at age 15 in December 2016, and they understand that their two remaining sons will someday face the same fate. However, Bob and Sonya are tireless in their efforts to advance support for and awareness of philanthropic causes.
“If anything,” Bob says, “I hope we’re the catalyst that shows other businesses that with a little creativity, they can be philanthropic. What I hope happens is that our two-person business can motivate other businesses to follow our model. It’s the right thing to do.”
From the core of their business model to the wines Sonya has named in honor of each of their sons, the hospital floor where the boys stayed at Duke, and other sick children they’ve met along the way, Aspen Wine is, at its heart, a family business.
When asked about the combination of winemaking and philanthropy, Bob says, “It’s the perfect trifecta we love wine, making wine and giving money to organizations supporting people with disabilities.”