Leveling the field

Mark Ward

Photo By Robin Epley

Everyone deserves an even footing, and in the North State, if you need a little help getting there, Mark Ward is the man to see. Ward is the program coordinator for the We Care a Lot Foundation, a nonprofit based out of Redding that helps people with developmental disabilities become small-business owners. The foundation has supported multiple ventures so far, from photographers and florists to art studios and novelty shops. Every week at the Thursday Night Market, Ward gives booth space to one of the owners and highlights his or her work for the night. I met up with Ward at his booth last Thursday and got to know more about the foundation and his role in the company.

What is the We Care a Lot Foundation?

People who have developmental disabilities and want to start their own business are referred to us, and if they have a good idea, and it seems feasible, we will help them develop their business, develop their business plan, hire a mentor, and we give them loans at no interest.

Who do you have at the booth?

Jim Beals. He’s a photographer, and he’s out of Redding. He does a lot of nature photography. He’s also developed a book to sell to people who are not communicative. So when they want to go on an outing, instead of having all the frustration of not being able to explain where they want to go, it has pictures—so people can just point.

What’s going on next week (Sept. 25)?

Big Dan; he has a novelty shop. It’s kind of an eclectic grouping of things. He has hats, lighters, flags, just kind of a fun thing. It’s geared toward younger people.

What’s your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part is actually getting to see people grow and develop. They get so much more self-confidence and self-fulfillment. They see that “Hey, this is my own business, I get to make the final decisions,” and to see them prosper from that, their whole attitudes about life are changing in some cases.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The We Care a Lot Foundation is a very wide spectrum. We do a lot to help level the playing field for people with developmental disabilities. We do talks at schools, we have abuse prevention teams, and we help people develop life plans to see how their lives are going.