As March, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, comes to a close, we’ll continue this week to feature individuals with developmental disabilities who have successfully found work. It’s not easy. Employers, either small businesses or large corporations, find it hard to believe that these job-seekers can work independently and help a business flourish.
And that’s where Goodwill steps in. We try to educate employers by example. We show how other individuals with disabilities of any type have found work and continue to contribute to companies’ bottom line.
So when Dara Dotson, one of Goodwill’s Job Developers visited a brand-new JCPenney store in Queens, she described how Goodwill helps these individuals find work. First they receive Prevocational services and they do volunteer work at several locations. This offers job-seekers the opportunity to explore potential employment. Once placed at a paid position, a Job Coach provides training to new employees and stay with them at the workplace until they are ready to work on their own. We work at each individual’s speed. Because intellectual disabilities, for instance, vary from mild to moderate, workers need different support.
Thankfully, the JCPenney staff was receptive to hiring Elaine and Alfredo, two individuals with an intellectual disability, formerly referred as mental retardation, a term no longer in use. Not only that, but the store hired three more individuals with developmental disabilities in the next three months! One of them started on Black Friday with nerves of steel she handled herself beautifully, her supervisor reported.
Today, we’ll introduce here Elaine and Alfredo, the two job-seekers who go the ball rolling in this workspace.
ELAINE, a twenty-five year-old African American woman with an intellectual disability, was shy and had no clear vocational direction when she joined Goodwill’s prevocational program in 2012. With the help of Goodwill staff, Elaine improved her communication skills, increased her sense of independence, and developed her work goals.
In September 2014, Elaine was hired to work in the young men’s department at JCPenney. Impressed with Elaine’s skills and drive, her manager believes she will soon work without the help of a Goodwill job coach.
“I am very happy to work at JCPenney and I like the work that I’m doing there. I like participating in Goodwill services because I can continue to maintain a relationship with peers and staff.”
Alfredo Glen, a thirty-four year-old Puerto Rican man with an intellectual disability, speaks English and Spanish fluently. The respectful, sociable and caring man resides in an individualized alternative residence but keeps in touch with his family at Far Rockaway, Queens. Alfredo and his brother Francisco receive services from Goodwill’s Project Discovery.
In 2008, Alfredo began by doing assembly work at Goodwill’s Astoria Work Center. There he learned many tasks.
When Alfredo moved to Goodwill’s Project Discovery in 2013, he continued to work at Goodwill’s Work Center two days per week and to volunteer in different sites the rest of the week. He volunteered at Goodwill’s 4th Street Café, Queens Central Library, Marshall’s, the food pantry at Bethesda Baptist Church, Sons of Ink Tattoo Shop and Modell’s Sport Store.
Finally, Alfredo was hired to work part-time in the Men’s department at JCPenney on September 2014. Job Coach Anna Li says that Alfredo has increased his focus at his job, he works independently at a steady pace, and he correctly sizes clothing.
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