For nearly two decades, the relationship between BuyJumpRopes and The Amigos has been one of mutual blessing, said Matt and Lennea Hopkins, founders of BuyJumpRopes.
Over the years, what started as a homebased business has grown to 25 employees and a 14,000-square-foot warehouse in Wenatchee. The Amigos have been core members of the team almost since the beginning.
Matt was a physical education teacher who wanted to mentor young people outside of class, so he started a competitive jump rope team in Leavenworth. They became one of the top teams in the United States. But when their ropes broke too often, Matt decided to design and patent his own improved version. He launched BuyJumpRopes in 1999 to sell the ropes to teams and jump rope enthusiasts around the world, with orders shipped as far away as India, the Middle East, Europe, the Philippines and Latin America.
When BuyJumpRopes added customized beaded ropes to their product line, the couple needed more help.
“I’d heard of other companies using disabled workers to bless them,” said Matt. “I needed somebody that was close by and who would be dependable and do great work that we could bless and be a blessing to us.”
The Hopkins reached out to Kathy Bangsund not long after The Dwelling Place opened in 2002. They heard she was developing job opportunities for The Amigos, who seemed like the perfect fit for BuyJumpRopes. Kathy readily agreed.
BuyJumpRopes is now The Dwelling Place’s longest employment partner. And the jump ropes remain The Amigos’ favorite job. They assemble the beaded ropes to order in their own home, along with Nora, their friend from another Adult Family Home in Leavenworth. The friends enjoy joking and chatting as they work.
“They’re doing meaningful, important work,” Matt said. “Sometimes they can see their ropes on TV when they watch the national and world championships, and at the Macy’s Day Parade, and say, ‘There’s my ropes.’”
In 2019, new federal rules went into effect around employment for people with development disabilities. Many businesses around the country were forced to lay off their disabled employees because of the onerous rules, Kathy said. BuyJumpRopes decided to keep working with The Amigos anyway.
At $13.50 in 2020, “the state of Washington has the highest minimum wage in the country,” Matt said. “It’s difficult, but we have gone forward (with The Amigos) as if nothing has changed. It’s a relationship that we don’t want to lose. We value it a great deal. Even though it’s been more difficult to pay them their wages and make a profit, we value it so much that it doesn’t matter to us. We’re going to do it, regardless. We just made that commitment to them.”
In January 2020, The Amigos visited the facility in Wenatchee for a tour. They saw how the ropes they make are prepared and shipped out to customers. Another employee had designed a T-shirt with The Amigos’ faces on it, and everyone was wearing one. They presented the shirts to Eric, Alex, Matt, Chris and Christopher and everyone shared pizza.
Matt and Lennea said The Amigos bring joy to everyone they meet.
“When I think of The Amigos, I think of walking into the house (before COVID) and just getting tons of hugs and smiles and hellos, and your spirit is automatically lifted through their spirit,” Matt said. “They’re so full of joy, and that starts from Kathy and the care and love she gives to those guys.”
“Kathy has done a lot of advocating for special needs,” Lennea added. “I remember years ago when she was fighting at the state level with the legislature for the LINK bus to continue coming to their house to pick up the guys and take them to their other jobs. The Lord has given her patience and helped her in setting them up for the future. This house will continue and be strong, even when she’s not there. She’s an amazing woman.”