Sunny Bunny Easter Eggs are filled with love by happy people
Photos by Sara Schafer and Angie Jones-Wheeler
Fifty egg bottoms are lined up on a board. With a quick grab and plop, each egg is filled with a single piece of candy. The tops are added with a sharp snap and that Easter egg is ready to be the centerpiece of an Easter egg hunt anywhere across the country. Many happy hunts start here in Marshfield with Sunny Bunny Easter Eggs and SWI Industrial Solutions.
This year, more than 13 million Easter eggs will be filled, assembled and shipped by the SWI Industrial Solutions team, which includes individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Beyond Marshfield, the non-profit business has a sister location in Monett and is headquartered in Springfield. “We are the happiest place to work in Monett, Springfield and Marshfield,” says Dave Dunn, SWI Industrial Solutions general manager.
With Sunny Bunny Easter Eggs, employees of SWI Industrial Solutions fill eggs with candy or small toys. The eggs are made in Harrison, Arkansas, and filled at warehouses in Marshfield (pictured here), Springfield and Monett. The eggs are engineered to be easy to assemble and click tightly together. The unique design allows nearly any person, regardless of their ability, to assemble the eggs, says Dave Dunn, general manager of SWI Industrial Solutions. Beyond eggs, the team provides subcontracting work for many companies. This can include anything from shrink-wrapping products to sorting hangers to organizing food products into smaller or larger quantities. That variety, paired with repetitive tasks, keeps employees happy, says Winfred Jones, SWI Industrial Solutions plant manager in Marshfield. “I could not sit there and do the same thing all day long, but they love and thrive on the repetitiveness,” he says. “Very seldom do you see them make a mistake, and 99% of the time everyone is happy.”
Smiles abound across the workshop floor as the 70 employees in Marshfield select candy, snap eggs shut and toss them into a box — then repeat. Coworkers joke, listen to music and catch up on weekend plans as they make their way through box after box of eggs, which will be purchased by churches, civic groups and individuals in quantities of 250 up to several thousand.
In one day, the team can package 70,000 to 100,000 eggs, which is good because daily sales can range from 240,000 to 400,000. “I could not sit there and do the same thing all day long, but they love and thrive on the repetitiveness,” says Winfred Jones, SWI Industrial Solutions plant manager in Marshfield. “Very seldom do you see them make a mistake.”
Winfred would know. For 43 years he’s been the first one in the door each day to greet his coworkers and solve their problems — big and small. “I was one of nine kids, and my youngest sister had Down syndrome and worked here for like 25 years before she passed away,” he says. “I got to bring her to work every day.”
For four years, Mandy Archie has served as the warehouse manager in Marshfield, working alongside Winfred. “It is a job you look forward to coming to because you know the employees are here and they’re going to depend on you,” she says.
The purpose of SWI Industrial Solutions and its subsidiary, Sunny Bunny Easter Eggs, is to provide meaningful employment for those with any level of disability. Dave says through their jobs his team learns life skills and earns money by doing manufacturing and light assembly work. They also find purpose for their lives and build lifelong friendship with their coworkers.
“It’s their socialization, their friends are here,” he says. “Winfred and Mandy are their big brother and big sister, their principals and their bosses. This is pretty much like any other job, you have to want to be here, you’re not assigned here. The whole key here is that employees have to be number one, no question. Business is number two. If employees want to work out in the community, we want them to do that. But then if that doesn’t work out, we want them to come back here.”
Each employee at SWI is assigned to a job based on their preferences, interests and strengths. For instance, some employees may fill 50 eggs a day while others do 1,200 eggs in a day. Team members work alongside people with and without disabilities.
Employees who require a ride are picked up and dropped off by one of the company’s four bus routes organized throughout the county. Salaries are based on the responsibility, skills needed and performance.
Because of this focus on employees, SWI Industrial Solutions attracts a massive amount of business for eggs and beyond. For nearly 60 years, the 300 team members across the business’ three locations have excelled in sub-contracting work for many companies. On any given day, employees could be filling bottles of odor-killing spray for hunting, sorting hangers, sewing bug screens for vehicle windows or packaging cans of fried onions for distribution.
Their jobs, Dave says, span major companies such as McCormick, 3M and O’Reilly Auto Parts to niche markets such as Dead Down Wind to small startups that just need help with Amazon fulfillment and warehousing needs. In Marshfield, the business operates in a 90,000-square-foot facility, which is just slightly smaller than the 95,000-square-foot facility in Springfield. The Monett building includes 60,000 square feet.
The variety of products, paired with repetitive tasks, keep employees happy to clock in for their 6-hour shifts each weekday. Employees range in age from early 20s to mid-80s, and some have worked for SWI for two, three and even four decades.
SWI Industries was created as the Springfield Workshop in 1966 by a few parents who wanted to provide opportunities for their children with disabilities. That mission and focus has stayed true six decades later.
“We laugh and have fun, and that’s what it’s all about here,” Winfred says. “Everything is about our employees and making their lives better.”
You can learn about Sunny Bunny Easter Eggs and SWI Industrial Solutions at sunnybunnyeastereggs.com and swiindustrial.com. If you’d like to support the business or schedule a tour, contact Dave Dunn at email@example.com.