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Lifetime Assistance gifted business by former staffer

The late Bob Hickey, shown here with his wife, Annette, has gifted Lifetime Assistance with his greeting card business. (provided)

A longtime employee of Lifetime Assistance Inc. has posthumously donated his greeting card business to the organization.

The late Bob Hickey, a 13-year employee and former Work Center business manager for Lifetime Assistance LAICO Industries division, donated the successful nationally recognized greeting card business he founded, Patent Press Greetings Cards, to Lifetime upon his death in April this year. He saw the donation as a marriage of two of his passions.

Hickey was an entrepreneur at heart, having led a series of successful startup businesses for Lifetime that created meaningful employment for people with disabilities. He knew that Patent Press Greeting Cards had significant potential to grow.

“The biggest reward was making pragmatic change for people who thought they would only work in a limited capacity reach their full potential,” Hickey said before his death. He saw firsthand the importance that skill development and having a job were to people with disabilities.

Patent Press Greeting Cards is a unique line of more than 400 card designs featuring artwork that originally accompanied actual patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The wholesale and retail business sells cards online and in more than 100 stores and museums nationwide.

“This was a most generous donation to Lifetime, and we are very grateful that Bob saw the opportunity for its growth and success within the Lifetime family of businesses,” said Lifetime President and CEO Jamie Branciforte. “Bob’s dedication to helping those we support to discover their abilities and put them to work in productive activities exemplify the Lifetime mission. We hope that it was a great comfort to him knowing that Lifetime would carry his unique creation forward and grow it so that it will continue to provide interesting and challenging employment opportunities for the people he and Lifetime care so much about.”

Brandon Nesmith (front) works on greeting cards as Work Center Supervisor Nate Ainsworth looks on. (provided)

After a short break to transfer various aspects of the business, Patent Press Greeting Cards is up and running, fulfilling orders and providing employment for several people including three individuals with developmental disabilities, who are included in every aspect of the business. Each has artistic abilities, making them a good fit for a business built upon unique graphic designs, officials said. They are putting their creative skills to work designing a thank you card to go out with orders and also will be designing and writing greetings for new cards.

The cards are printed by Image Printers, the same Rochester-based printer who had worked with Hickey prior to his death. Pricing has remained the same.

The new company adds a unique element to Lifetime’s employment offerings of scanning, shredding, assembly, janitorial services and catering. Patent Press is managed by a team led by Amy Mitchell, Lifetime’s vice president of Day Services, who oversees the Work Center’s services that help people learn new skills, and Katie Gillespie, Lifetime’s director of Community Services. The team spent several months transitioning the business and relocating it to Lifetime’s Work Center at 426 Paul Road, a 26,000-square-foot modern production facility and warehouse. Hickey’s wife, Annette, who worked with her husband at Patent Press on nights and weekends, helped during the transition.

“We are very grateful to Bob and Annette, and we will continue to honor his legacy. The people receiving supports and services at our Work Center enjoy learning the various aspects of the business and look forward to using their creative skills to continue to grow the business,” Mitchell and Gillespie said. “Bob is greatly missed at Lifetime Assistance. His presence still exists in the work center with his cards. He continues to make us laugh as we read the humorous content inside the cards and his mission to help people find employment continues to move forward as the work center staff teach the people supported how to operate the greeting card business.”

Hickey continued to share his ideas and strategies for running the Patent Press business in its new home at Lifetime until his death.

“He would call me to share an idea that had popped into his head. He was still so lucid and had so much energy. He wanted to be sure we had as much knowledge as he could impart so that we could take over the business, grow it and provide meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities,” Gillespie said.

Lifetime Assistance is the largest and most comprehensive agency in the Rochester region helping people with developmental disabilities live with the highest possible level of independence. Established in 1978, the nonprofit organization supports more than 1,800 people with developmental disabilities at more than 70 sites.

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