In an awards shop in Houston, young adults with disabilities are training for the next stages of their lives. At Revived Glory Awards, five Trophy Masters disassemble and rebuild community-donated trophies, sublimate plaques and gifts, and customize products with laser and rotary engraving.
It began three years ago with old trophies and an anxious anticipation of a son’s future. As the mother of a disabled son, owner Sharon Meaden realized Mark was only two or three years away from aging out of the school system and began to look for opportunities to continue to develop his valuable skills. “When they’re in school, they get great training, lots of support and therapy, but once they graduate, it’s just as if they drop off a cliff unless there’s something in place for them,” Meaden tells A&E magazine. “We didn’t want him to lose those skills. We wanted him to continue to be productive with his computer work and with his tutoring.”
Mark is incredibly adept with computers, but is distractible, she explains. “We always said he has a future with a computer, but he really needs to practice in the right environment. He has issues with his disability that make it very difficult at this stage in his life to work in a normal environment.”
The solution was in her daughter’s old swim team trophies, which sat in the garage for five years collecting dust. A box of untapped potential for five Trophy Masters.
“I said, ‘Let’s find out what’s involved with trophies. Maybe there’s something for Mark here,’” Meaden recalls. She brought them in the house and, together, they took them apart, put them back together, and matched the pieces. She then decided to investigate the awards industry. “I started making calls to find out about engravers, and what I was surprised about it is how easy they are. As long as you know the software, you can engrave just about anything, so that was encouraging,” she says.
For the next year, the Meaden family began collecting old trophies from immediate family and friends. “Everybody was more than willing to donate. Everybody has these in their attics or closets, garages—they were everywhere and nobody could let them go,” she says. “That’s what's so interesting—they all have these stories behind them.” They started with an informal collection. Two and a half months later, 400 trophies had amassed in their game room. “People were so appreciative that they had a place to donate them to because they just don’t want them to go in the trash,” Meaden explains. After they got their first order, Revived Glory Awards was born. With a little advertising, meetings here and there, and by word of mouth, the business continued to grow.
For the first three and a half years, Revived Glory Awards operated out of the Meaden home. In January of 2016, they opened a storefront in a convenient location for the five Trophy Masters. Located in a strip center at 13150 FM 529 #108 in Houston with a family to family network—a resource group for parents with children with disabilities and an active physical and occupational therapy and speech group, the store was a convenient place to strengthen their skills as a team.
With eight volunteers supporting the Trophy Masters, each has something to contribute to the business. "We have one young man who’s enthusiastic and loves to work, but he doesn’t really have use of his left hand. My son doesn’t really have use of his right hand, so somebody can hold that part of the trophy so they can screw and unscrew it,” Meaden explains. “We can put the insert in place and they can make sure it sticks. They can put the sticker on the bottom of an order. There are just a lot of things they can do as far as building. Three are doing the lasering and working the computer.”
In addition to laser engraving, Revived Glory Awards personalizes a variety of awards, trophies, plaques, gifts and more with sublimation and rotary engraving. “Preparing them for the next step of their life would be my dream—that they would get such good training here as far as coming to work, working hard, producing a competitive product with quality control with a high priority on customer satisfaction,” Meaden says, explaining that the Trophy Masters are required to wear their uniforms—grey polos with bright green stripes—with a neat appearance as customers can walk in any minute throughout the day. They bring their lunches everyday, which they pack themselves.
The Trophy Masters strengthen their social skills and communication with strangers and customers—saying hello or goodbye or opening the door for them. “All those skills will be impressive to any employer out there, I think,” she says. “So much of being a good employee is just showing up and having a good attitude. That’s what they’re practicing here.
“They are just so excited to come to work and be with their team and friends. Many of them know each other from Special Olympics, but we’re a Revived Glory Awards team,” she adds. Meaden admits that she hadn’t realized how meaningful simply being a part of a team is. "I was always part of a team. I was in sales or other types of work and I was part of a department, but these young people have not ever had that exposure.”
Since embarking on this journey—a search for a future for her son—Meaden says that every day she spends at Revived Glory Awards is special as the Trophy Masters grow and develop valuable skills to carry with them to the next step of their professional careers. Their experience opens new doors for the five young adults with disabilities. “It just makes me so happy to see them enjoying what they’re doing and enjoying learning new skills,” she remarks. “It makes me so happy to see them enjoying being corrected if something’s not quite right. They absolutely accept it and they want to do better. We all want to do better."
For more information, visit www.revivedgloryawards.com.