‘Dream partnership:’ Apseed and Rowan Vocational Opportunities team up

SALISBURY — For Greg Alcorn, founder and CEO of ApSeed Inc., a newly forged partnership with Rowan Vocational Opportunities is a dream come true.

ApSeed is a local nonprofit organization that provides electronic readers loaded with literacy apps to at-risk children to age 4. Since its founding two years ago, ApSeed has relied on volunteers to customize and load software to its devices.

But organizing a group of volunteers and coordinating a time became a logistical problem as ApSeed grew and started distributing more devices. Now, Alcorn said, that’s no longer a problem.

“You might have 15 volunteers, you might have two. This way, we’re able to control that step,” he said.

ApSeed is now a contracted customer with Rowan Vocational Opportunities, a local nonprofit agency that helps train people with disabilities in life and occupational skills.

“It’s great. It’s really helped. … It’s community networking at its best — a nonprofit helping a nonprofit,” Alcorn said.

At Rowan Vocational Opportunities, clients work out of a converted classroom in an assembly-line style. They unbox and program each device before settling it in its bright blue, custom cover.

“It’s kind of like any other vendor or contracted company we get involved with,” said Greg Yelton, executive director of Rowan Vocational Opportunities.

ApSeeds’ current shipment is its largest yet — 2,500 devices, or “seedlings,” that will be disturbed in Rowan and Davie counties.

Clients are trained in their job and gradually speed up as they learn the ropes. The contract helps provide clients with a paycheck, a steady job and a chance to socialize. And each product goes through a quality check before it’s boxed and shipped.

“We want it to go back to our customers perfect,” Yelton said.

Yelton said that some people are skeptical of the work at Rowan Vocational Opportunities, but he and the clients who work there brush it off and push themselves to be the best they can be.

“We specialize in proving people wrong,” Yelton said.

So far, Yelton said, clients have programmed and packaged about 1,032 seedlings.

“At first, they were doing 10 a day, and by the third week, they were doing 100 a day,” Alcorn said. “So they’ve gotten to where they’re taking a huge step for Appleseed.”

Rowan Vocational Opportunities also has a warehouse and the ability to move large numbers of devices at a time — something that ApSeed has lacked, previously apart from a partnership with Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

The partnership with ApSeed started in May, and both Alcorn and Yelton said it played into what the organizations are all about.

“This sort of fit with our mission of helping those who can’t help themselves,” Yelton said.

Alcorn said he’s in awe that the partnership is helping two different demographics that are often overlooked — at-risk children and people with disabilities.

“It’s a dream partnership for us,” Alcorn said. “It gives me goose bumps to know that we can use (RVO) to support, as my mother called it, the voiceless demographic.”

Rebecca Rider