Interviews with purpose-driven leaders who are dedicated to helping others and making a positive impact in the world.
July 20, 2023
Tammy Bellofatto | Bayaud Enterprises
TELL US, WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
My name is Tammy Bellafatto. I’m the CEO of Bayaud Enterprises, which has a mission to create hope, opportunity, and choice with work as a means through which people with disabilities and other hurdles to employment can participate more fully in the mainstream of life. Basically, we want to help people get back to work, whatever work looks like to them. We don’t put people into boxes. We ask them what kind of work they want to do to get folks to wherever they want to be.
HOW DID YOU GET HERE?
My work history started as a small business owner and working for the phone company. I had a brief stint with addiction and homelessness through some poor choices in life. As I was getting through all of that I realized I wanted to help other people in situations like mine. I found a position at the Free Coalition for Felons Regaining Equal Employment and helped as a job developer and job coach. Unfortunately, that was in 2008 when the recession hit, and our funding went away.
I went back to bartending and met Rudy Gonzales, the executive director of Servicios de la Raza. He heard what I had done at the Free Coalition and brought me on to work with juvenile offenders in employment. I started as an employment specialist in the Summer Youth Employment Program, then when that work ended I became a medical case manager for people living with HIV. Although that was very rewarding work, I wanted to stick to employment because I believe that’s where people are able to change their lives. I was hired as an employment specialist at the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless in 2011, then worked my way up to the manager and then director of the department.
In 2019, the CEO position of Bayaud became available when founder, David Henninger, retired after 50 years. People suggested I throw my hat into the ring, and I was the candidate selected for this position. On January 1, 2020, I became the CEO, which was an interesting time to become a CEO for the very first time of a major organization with COVID hitting two-and-a-half months later. We were very, very fortunate that we were able to do COVID response work for people experiencing homelessness in the city and county of Denver.
WHAT DO YOU STAND FOR? WHY IS THIS WORK IMPORTANT TO YOU?
I believe everybody identifies with who they are through their employment. That’s how you introduce yourself generally, it gives you an identity. When you’re Tammy, the drug addict, or Tammy, the homeless person, that doesn’t give you much of an identity. When you get back into the mainstream and start working and therefore creating that identity for yourself, it gives you self-esteem. It gives you money and allows you to start making financial choices in a good way instead of a bad way. I believe that it is so important to help people get back to wherever they want to go and where they want to be. Not everybody’s going to become a CEO of a major organization, but people can make choices and do what they want to do. It’s self-rewarding and gives self-worth. I believe it got me back on the path of where I really needed to be and where I wanted to be. I made bad choices, and now I make better choices and I’m in a better position.
WHAT IMPACT ARE YOU MAKING?
I believe the impact that we make is amazing. In 2022 we helped about 4,000 individuals. In some cases, it was as simple as providing shower and laundry services. Last year we offered shower services to 1,500 people and washed 22,000 pounds of laundry. It helps people be able to prepare for job interviews and helps them feel better about themselves. We also served more than 1,100 families with food. We placed around 450 people in jobs. About 86% of people we place in a job retain that job for nine months or longer. I think that has a lot to do with our wraparound services and vocational coaching, which we started last year paired with mental health counseling. We created a position called the clinical employment specialist, which is a mental health provider or peer counselor, who also helps them get and retain a job. A lot of our folks get to a point of believing their job situation is too good to be true, and worry what’s going to happen next. Our clinical folks are able to help them get past that impostor syndrome because they wonder when the next shoe is going to drop. The clinicians help them recognize they deserve it, and that this is the way life should be.
WHAT (OR WHO) INSPIRES YOU TO DO THIS WORK?
What inspires me to do this work is to know that it can be done. There are so many people out there who find reasons they can’t, like being a convicted felon. I think the whole reason I stayed in this work is that I want to show people that they can. I am a convicted felon. Fortunately, I was pardoned by the governor in 2018, and the only reason I did that was to show people that you can do it. When people thought I couldn’t do it, I said, “Watch me. You’ve just got to do the right thing.” Who I am now is part of how I became who I am, so it didn’t really bother me not to be pardoned. But I want to lead by example, showing people they can definitely regain whatever they want to regain. It’s not easy, it takes hard work. I’ve worked really hard to break some of that stigma and help people realize that even if they’ve made mistakes in the past, they can come back from them. It is not what defines them. The difference between those who haven’t been convicted and me is I got caught and they didn’t. A lot of people don’t realize that that’s the only difference, because a lot of people do things they could get in serious trouble for doing. The previous CEO of the Coalition, John Parvensky, was an amazing person. Seeing the passion he had for the people we served was inspiring as well. It didn’t matter who was sitting next to him, whether it was somebody experiencing homelessness, someone having a psychotic episode, or someone who was severely ill. He was there for the people regardless of their situation, and he listened to them. I think it’s important that the people who lead these organizations are approachable, compassionate, and take the time to listen to the people they serve. I know I do.
WHAT’S YOUR VISION, YOUR BIG DREAM FOR THE IMPACT YOU WANT TO MAKE?
My vision is to help as many people as possible who want to be helped. There are people who may not necessarily want to work or who are unable to work. I would love to have the opportunity to help folks receive social security benefits if they’re unable to work. We have a small grant to help a specific population if they fit in a box, but we don’t have any funding for just anybody who can’t work. Not everybody can hold down a job to support themselves, so that’s one of my dreams to find funding for them. I think that every person either can work or needs the ability to be on some sort of disability to support themselves to self-sufficiency. It’s amazing what happens when you are self-sufficient. You have a much better outlook on things, you feel better.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE YOU FACING?
The biggest challenge is always money. If you have money, you can do anything. I think people have a tendency to focus on housing or health care. I think there are three pillars to ending homelessness: housing, health care, and employment or meaningful activity.
WHAT’S ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR CAUSE AND/OR THE WORK YOU’RE DOING?
I would like people to know that we are not just a social services organization. We own social enterprises to help support our mission. Two percent of our revenue comes from donations. That’s all. Another 24% of our revenue comes from grants. Then 46% of our revenue comes from AbilityOne federal contracts, where 75% of our workforce has to have a significant disability precluding them from mainstream work. And 28% of our revenue comes from our social enterprises which include a document destruction company, shelter operations for the city, janitorial services, unarmed security, temporary staffing, commercial carpet cleaning, product assembly, and pest control, which is our latest social enterprise. So not only are we teaching people specialized trades, but we’re also helping the community while earning money to support our mission.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE QUOTE OR WORDS OF INSPIRATION TO SHARE?
One of my favorite quotes is, “You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room, but you have to hire the smartest people in the room.”
HOW CAN OTHERS SUPPORT YOU OR YOUR CAUSE?
Use our services, because we want to work and all of our social enterprises put people to work. Donations don’t necessarily have to be cash donations. We accept the little soaps and shampoos from hotel stays for people using our shower services. We are always looking for donations to our food pantry, plus laundry pods or dryer sheets for our laundry services. We’re hosting a fundraiser – the Lakewood Food & Wine at the Belmar Plaza on September 9, 2023. The event is free with live music, and tickets are $50 to participate in the food and wine portion. You can learn more at bayaudenterprises.org.
At Orapin, we believe those who are working for the greater good should be known, supported, and celebrated. We help purpose-driven organizations launch or up-level their PR program by giving them the strategy, resources, and support they need to increase awareness and expand their impact. If would like to be featured in INSPIRED IMPACT™, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.