Deneka Jett remembers the exact moment and how she felt. Last August, shortly after her job interview, she found out she was hired as a customer support representative for Sears at Northgate Mall.
“I was really excited and jumping up and down on the inside,” she said with a huge smile. It’s her first community job and a position created just for her. Jett, who uses a power wheelchair, welcomes customers to the store and guides them to specific departments.
She tried working in the community before but wasn’t successful. This time it was different.
“I wanted more than anything to feel good about myself and be more important and motivated,” she said. Her Service and Support Administrator Andrea Bunting helped reopen her case with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). After a few initial meetings with OOD, Jett, 46, chose Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries as her job developer. Each week, she met with Employment Specialist Mark Leugers to practice her computer and interview skills.
“She’s very social and not shy,” Bunting said. “Mark worked well with Deneka, and I think that made the difference. He has a knack for creating jobs.”
After learning about Jett’s interests, strengths and skills, Leugers met with multiple employers to find the right fit. When he walked into the Northgate Sears store, something clicked. “The layout was confusing – I didn’t know where the office was – so I told them how Deneka could benefit Sears and how it was a great customer service opportunity,” he said. “They loved the idea, and we figured out how to make it work with their job description.”
Jett said she struggled a bit at first, especially learning the store layout, but she was open to learning more about her job. “Don’t give up, I almost did,” she said. “It feels so good to get up and say ‘I got to go to work today.’ And it feels good to have my manager say I’m doing a great job and am a good employee.”
She works two days a week at Sears and attends REM Ohio four days a week, where she’s brushing up on her computer skills to advance in her position.
“Deneka initiated this whole process because she wanted to try again. Sometimes that’s all it takes,” Bunting said.