Determination, support leads to two fulfilling jobs

At the back of the Little Caesar’s Ring Road, Jeff Everett is busy filling pans before the lunch rush hits. He’s focused on his current task, arranging chicken wings in the square pan as if he’s filling in pieces of a puzzle.

Jeff BlogA little later, he moves to the pizza line, swirling sauce on unbaked crusts and topping each one with cheese and pepperoni. “I like all the different things to do, and my co-workers are friendly,” he said.

In addition to his job at Little Caesar’s, he works at Frisch’s two days a week. Jeff, who is 47 and has Down syndrome, was employed before his family moved to Harrison, but finding a job here was a completely different experience.

In Chicago, where the Everett family lived before coming to Cincinnati in July 2016, Jeff went through job training in school and was placed at Jewel-Osco grocery store, where he worked for 28 years, said his mom, Sue.

“Jeff had a big transition to go through when we moved. In Chicago, he did other things as well as work—his life was very full,” she said. “He’s done remarkable with the changes.”

After settling in, Jeff expressed interest in looking for a job because he likes staying busy. Unsure of what opportunities they’d find and worried Jeff would easily fall out of a work routine if he stayed at home with nothing to do, his mom reached out to Nathan Beck, employment navigation supervisor for Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services.

“Once he decided he wanted to work, it was full-steam ahead,” Sue said.

Beck sat down with the family to discuss Jeff’s employment goals and locally available resources. He helped them set up a search with Ohio Means Jobs, connected Jeff to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and started looking at openings in the community. As they visited local businesses, Sue said the biggest obstacle was the online application process required by many places, including Home Depot, Kroger and McDonald’s.

“I truly believe you’ve got to get in front of someone. For a person seeking employment, especially someone with a disability, it’s a huge barrier and the impression you make in person can make or break the opportunity,” she said.

At Frisch’s, her instinct proved true. Jeff walked in, talked to the restaurant manager and was later hired to clear tables and clean the dining room.

Jeff E ReflectionsWhen he started at Frisch’s in October 2016, he had a job coach, who also followed him to Little Caesar’s when Jeff took on a second job that same month. Tabitha Davis, his supervisor at the pizza chain, said Jeff works independently but his job coach still checks in with him. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the longer I worked with Jeff, the easier it was,” Davis said. “He knows what’s expected and is always trying to learn and go to the next level.”

Though Jeff had some difficulty with his job search, he’s happy to be working again. “It’s not always easy, but I like it,” he said. “I knew I could do it on my own and it feels good.”

Shortly after he was hired at Little Caesar’s, his case was opened by Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, which continued providing a job coach. “Jeff could have waited around but he took initiative—moving careers and leading the whole process,” Beck said. “His family was really supportive. They took him to interviews, helped him apply and assisted with technology when needed.”

The path Jeff took and the job search process was tough, but it’s “not an impossible task,” Sue said. “Fortunately, we had the support and help exploring different options.  We did learn it’s an ongoing process and takes a team!”

When he’s not working, Jeff enjoys watching wrestling with his brother and participating in the Special Olympics.  He also loves to travel and going out to eat.


VIDEO: Finding and keeping a job in the community

Sometimes finding a job can be tough. But with determination and the right supports, people with developmental disabilities are finding work in the community.

The latest video from the Southwestern Ohio Regional Council of Governments and the WORKing Together Collaborative focuses on families and what others can do to help people set goals and succeed, including:

  • Self-Advocacy
  • Local agency support
  • School teams and planning
  • Parent/Family member support and input

It features Chelsia Carter, who works at McDonald’s and The Arbors, Zachariah McCall, who works at Panera Bread, Garrett Doerr, who works at Kroger, and Rachel Rice, who works three jobs — one at a transportation company, another at Production Services Unlimited, and one at the Warren County Court of Common Pleas.

Getting back to work at a job she loves

This is a reprint from Paul Daugherty’s blog. His daughter, Jillian, wrote a guest post about her work experience earlier this year. 

Jillian Daugherty Mavriplis went back to work this morning. in the athletic department of Northern Kentucky University. After spending the summer working as a teacher’s assistant at our local YMCA’s summer camp, Jillian will resume the job loves best.

“NKU is my home,” she texted me this morning, while riding one of the four Metro buses she’ll take to get to and from work every day between now and May.

636034027259068402-jillian18Frequent readers might know the story: Jillian and her husband Ryan each were students for four years at NKU, part of a pilot program that has won national acclaim. Jillian was a manager for three years of the men’s basketball team there. After she walked the graduation line, the athletic department kept her on. She does multiple jobs, everything from fetching coffee for the athletic director to giving tours to prospective Norse athletes.

Jillian survived a coaching change a few years ago.The coach who hired her six years ago, the saintly Dave Bezold, was let go, along with his entire staff. NKU kept Jillian, for a few reasons:

  1. She brightens days.
  2. She’s a hard worker.

Jillian’s perspective on living is one I could learn from: Know what matters, which is whom you love and who loves you… be grateful for the kindness of people. . . return that kindness. That’s pretty much it.

The job gives her the same stuff it gives the rest of us: Respect, dignity, purpose, independence. She and Ryan pay the rent on their apartment. They pay everything, in fact, but the utilities. We in-laws cover those.

I wish the public at large could see them every day, leaving for work, coming home, making dinner, walking the dog, watching TV. They’d see a couple with the same needs, and wants, joy and love, emotions and cares as them. Usually, perception is the hardest nut to crack. In some areas, we have done an OK job. More of our kids are fully included in regular-ed classrooms, more are accepted by their typical peers.

Some are working jobs that match their skill levels, not the public’s preconceptions. That describes Jillian and Ryan, thankfully. And they’re doing their best to pay it forward.

Jillian went back to work today. It was a great day.

Guest post: Gaining independence while working in the community

Contributed by the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities

He’s only gotten a few paychecks, but Licking Heights graduate Charlie Stumbo is enjoying the benefits of his first full time job.

The 21-year-old started his job, cleaning at the Defense Supply Center Columbus — through Goodwill Columbus— on July 19. “It’s been good,” Charlie said. “I’ve gotten to meet new people who work there.

The Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ transition youth and employment supports teams helped connect Charlie with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Functional Training Services Inc. and other resources he needed to be successful.

Charlie Stumbo, of Pataskala, recently accepted his first full time job in Columbus and is taking more steps toward independence, with support from his family and LCBDD.
Charlie Stumbo, of Pataskala, recently accepted his first full time job in Columbus..

His journey to employment started early, with support from his parents Paula and Fred Stumbo. He enrolled in the Individualized Transition Education to Careers program at C-TEC during high school and then participated in a two campus based transition programs at Ohio State University,  the Student Transition Education Program and Project Plus.

Both programs gave him the opportunity to work with a job coach and experience multiple internships. Over two years, he worked at Kennedy Commons, the Blackwell Inn, Morrill Commons, the OSU RPAC and several other locations.

“That gave him good job experience and good life skills too,” Paula said.

After receiving his high school diploma in the spring, Charlie was able to get his drivers license, with support from OOD. He connected with Functional Training Services which helped him secure his job at DSCC.

When he isn’t working, he’s active in the West Licking Warriors Special Olympics team. He’s getting ready to start bowling and enjoys participating in track and basketball. Lately, he’s been able to spend more time with his friends from Special Olympics, playing Xbox games.

His mother said she’s thrilled to see him becoming more independent. “He won’t have to depend on Mom and Dad, although he knows we are always here for him,” she said.

As parents, she and Fred want to make sure Charlie and his younger brother Greg, who is also supported by LCBDD, have the resources they need to be successful.

“What’s going to happen when Mom and Dad aren’t around?” she said, “That’s why it was it was important for us to hook up with the board so they have a support system in place. Now they know the board is there, there are people that will always be there to support you.”

Upcoming events to build inclusive workplaces

The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce is hosting a new event as part of their Diverse By Design initiative. It begins at noon on Monday, Sept. 26.

Topics include:

  • ROI of employing people with disabilities and veterans
  • Understanding employer tax incentives
  • Local business success stories
  • Workplace accomodation and fostering a culture of openness and comfort

Paul Daughtery, an award-winning sports journalist and author, is the keynote speaker. His book, “An Uncomplicated Life,” is about his daughter Jillian, who has Down syndrome. Jillian has been successfully employed in the community for years and wrote a guest post for our blog earlier this year.

Registration and details on the Chamber’s website.

Also, on Sept. 27, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with the National Disability Mentoring Coalition, is hosting a celebration to kick off National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

The celebration, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., highlights USDA’s new Disability Mentoring Model as a means to support increased employment and advancement of individuals with disabilities in the federal government and provides the framework for agencies and disability organizations to collaborate and share resources. Hear from top leaders about how the federal government is working to increase hiring, advancement, and retention of people with disabilities, and learn about a new multi-sector disability mentoring model.

#InclusionWorks: Mentoring to and through Employment is being held in Washington D.C., but can be watched live via the web. More information and registration details available online.

Case study: From workshops to workforce in Tennessee

What happens when you close sheltered workshops and move people with developmental disabilities into the community workforce? The prospect of this monumental task can seem daunting, even impossible, for many organizations.

When SRVS (pronounced “serves”) took an opportunity to transition people to integrated employment in Shelby County, Tennessee, some were skeptical and others pushed back against the proposal. So they started implementing strategies to focus on “soft skills” such as resume writing and navigating a professional environment.

“Our workshop was our face in the community,” said Tyler Hampton, SRVS’ Executive Director. “Everybody loved us. People were happy. When you walked through people would hug you.”

Eric Ryan, one of the people who left SVRS for community employment.
Eric Ryan, one of the people who left SVRS for community employment. Watch the video from Tennessee Works here.

So when Tennessee state leaders asked him to apply for technical assistance funded through the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP), Hampton said “no” because he knew it would mean closing the workshop. After a second call from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, SRVS committed to assisting 20 beneficiaries transition to integrated employment in the fall of 2012.

SRVS began receiving technical assistance from subject matter experts in early 2013. During a presentation at SRVS on customized employment, a technical expert described the benefits of working in the community for people with disabilities, including the opportunity to develop friendships and natural supports in ways that would be more realistic than in workshops. Another technical expert with experience in transforming sheltered workshops led a walk-through of the SRVS workshop.

These experiences opened Hampton’s eyes to what he characterized as “the inequities that were happening within our workshop.” “I didn’t realize it,” he added, “I knew we had to close.”

In August 2013 the SRVS board formally agreed to close the sheltered workshop and on June 30, 2015, after more than 50 years, the workshop closed. Of the 110 beneficiaries who had participated in the workshop, 42 are now successfully employed and 62 are receiving supports as they seek employment.

Story adapted and includes parts of an article originally posted on an Administration for Community Living (ACL) blog, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Have a disability? Here are some of the best places to work

Staffers at the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) and the US Business Leadership Network (USBLN)  have partnered to create the Disability Equality Index (DEI), a national inventory used to assess and benchmark businesses’ disability inclusion practices. Now in its second year, the DEI is recognizing 42 of the 83 companies that participated in 2016 with a 100 percent score and “Best Place to Work” honors. 

Among the top-ranking companies are Starbucks, AMC Theatres, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, Delta,JPMorgan Chase, P&G, Comcast NBC Universal, HP, General Motors, Walmart, and American Airlines.

A few of these businesses have made news in the past for their disability-friendly practices. Starbucks, for instance, just hired 10 deaf baristas at one of its stores in Kuala Lumpur. AMC, the second largest cinema chain in America, has led the way with sensory-friendly screenings since 2007.

Helena Berger, president and CEO of AAPD, told The Mighty the survey may also guide people with disabilities and their loved ones on where to spend their money.

“The DEI helps people with disabilities better target where there are greater employment opportunities within industry segments,” Berger added. “In addition, it shows which companies are actively engaged and working toward disability inclusion for employees, customers and suppliers.”

Read the full story on The Mightyand learn more about the Disability Equality Index.