National Underwriter Life & Health is happy to acknowledge William “Mack” Hull as the recipient of the 2011 Industry Elite Award winner for Community Outreach. Hull is the head of Capital Architects LLC, Overland Park, Kansas, and has been in the life insurance business for 36 years. But it was his work with the Heartstrings Community Foundation that won him this award.

Hull, along with his wife Anne, started Heartstrings as a 501(c)(3) foundation in their basement 10 years ago. Starting with virtually no budget, the Hulls have grown Heartstrings into a powerhouse with more than 50 staff, a $1 million annual budget and bright prospects for future growth.

Heartstrings works to enable adults with developmental disabilities to lead productive lives in the community through work or vocation. Heartstrings currently serves 50 adults with developmental disabilities and is financed by annual gifts, fundraising, charitable gifts and funds generated by the five businesses in which the individuals are actively engaged. Heartstrings also claims New York Life, Lincoln Financial, Applebee’s, American Academy of Family Physicians, Twin Financial and Red Development among other national and local clients that help it succeed in its mission.

Although intricately involved himself, Hull credits his wife Anne as being the backbone of the foundation. Mack and Anne have two sons that are developmentally disabled and they were able to recognize firsthand that after public education, there were few opportunities for them. Anne came up with the novel idea of putting the emphasis on business in order to integrate developmentally disabled adults into the community. “Heartstrings was born with that concept of business creation and community involvement, that everyone could and should have a chance in the marketplace,” Hull says.

Without Heartstrings, the alternative for people with developmental disabilities would be a sheltered workshop or finding employment on their own. Neither option facilitates community integration the way that Heartstrings is able to. “We wanted to offer opportunity and choice,” Anne says.

Not only does Heartstrings have six businesses of its own, but is also places people in jobs in the community and provides them with job coaching. “We are ongoing support for the employer and the employee,” Anne says.