LIMA — Over the years, Lima-area developmental disabilities agencies and employers have helped provide a sense of purpose to individuals with developmental disabilities, such as 28-year-old David Bradley, according to Tracie Sanchez, owner of Lima Pallet.
October is Disability Employment Awareness Month, an opportunity to acknowledge the challenges individuals like Bradley face while looking for employment, but more importantly to celebrate their work efforts.
“It’s proven that hiring individuals with disabilities can improve an agency’s culture, enhance morale among employees and customers and create a diverse workspace,” said Renee Place, superintendent of Auglaize County Board of Development Disabilities. “All people with disabilities are generally dedicated, dependable and motivated to demonstrate their abilities.”
Lima Pallet Company
For nearly 10 years, Bradley, of Lima, has worked for both Lima Pallet Company, 1470 Neubrecht Road, and at Bob Evans Restaurants, 1810 Harding Highway, two jobs he said he enjoys.
“It’s been a positive experience finding new people and new fiends,” Bradley said. “I really like both of them.”
When Bradley began his journey at Lima Pallet Company in 2011, he was tasked with cleaning the break room or sweeping the floor. He gradually worked his way up to tearing pallets apart and undoing bolts and screws.
“They were little tedious tasks that needed to be done, but yet it was something that people don’t want to do or don’t like to do,” said Sanchez. “David always had a smile on his face and has always given a 120 percent in everything that he does.”
Sanchez admits that at first she was not sure how well Bradley would do with the other employees, some of whom are ex-felons.
“We’re a second-chance employer, so we have the guys that are felons and then you combine them with this challenge,” Sanchez said. “So it was really cool to see how over time the two really started working together and made things happen.”
Over the last seven years, Sanchez said Bradley has made a lot of progress and is proud of the man that he has become.
“He is our shining star,” Sanchez said. “He is a great asset to our company. It’s been really rewarding to see David grow as a person and how he takes pride in what he does. Now there honestly are not too many jobs David does not know.”
One of the greatest benefits of hiring Bradley was the help of the job coach provided through Marimor, Sanchez said.
Marimor Industries, 2450 Ada Road, is a non-profit corporation that helps individuals with disabilities with training and employment.
“They helped right along and made sure he understood,” Sanchez said. “It was a learning experience on both sides because you have to learn patience.”
The purpose of the job coaches is to help individuals not only find jobs but also help them learn and retain it, said Sue Dunn, Marimor Industries’ employment services manager.
Funding is through the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities and Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
“Job coaches are essential because, just like anyone starting a new job, you’re nervous,” Dunn said. “They don’t know what to expect, and they need help with learning their job.”
Also, job coaches at Marimor devote time to providing extra training to the employee if needed.
“If it takes someone with a disability a little bit longer to train, an employer can do a few days of initial training, and we will take over and spend that extra time so that they can learn the job,” said Jesse Frank, Marimor’s assistant employment services manager.
After the individual with the developmental disability has mastered their job responsibilities, they are then provided with individual employment support.
The individual employment support is someone who follows up with the employer to make sure that there are no issues and to ensure that the individual can handle the job.
“People with disabilities want a job, just like everyone else,” Dunn said. “With a job, you make new friends and also you want money because it gives you freedom and choices. When you don’t have money you are reliant upon people.”
Bob Evans Restaurant
Job coaches and individual employment support not only helped Bradley at Lima Pallet but also through his time at Bob Evans Restaurant.
When Bradley is not working part-time at the Lima Pallet Company, he is busing tables and washing dishes at Bob Evans Restaurant.
“David is a great employee,” said John Carothers, Bob Evan Restaurants senior vice president of human resources.
Carothers said Bob Evans has always been committed to creating a diversified workplace. He said the company typically hires about 50 percent of all disabled applicants who apply.
“Our slogan is ‘Everybody is somebody at Bob Evans,’” Carothers said. “We have heavily stressed that we are a company that offers a diverse working environment, and we have a strong culture of inclusion. It’s not just a ethnicity thing, but with people that are handicapped as well.”
Carothers said Bob Evans understands and values individuals who have disabilities and the importance of having them on the team.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Carothers said, “especially now with the tight labor market. We don’t force this from a corporate standpoint. We have a belief that we want it to be something in the local community that the manager embraces. If it’s forced to come from corporate, it won’t be embraced in the right manor.”
There are several opportunities for individuals with development disabilities in the service business, such as janitorial work, production order, patient transport, office maintenance, food prep, dietary services, customer service and grounds workers, according to Sue Savinsky, an educational and transition consultant with the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
The Allen County Board of DD helps these individuals build a service plan. Through the service plan, the organization discovers what’s important to the individual and what type of employment they are looking for. From there, the organization reaches out to agencies and providers to help them find employment.
“Individuals with disabilities want the pride of having a job and paycheck to fit in a community,” Savinsky said. “Work does more for us then just giving us a paycheck. We work somewhere, and we have our work families. You belong and make a contribution, you pay taxes and then you’re making income so you’re spending money in the community.”
Place believes that more employers should consider hiring on individuals with disabilities.
“Employers who are considering hiring on someone with a disability will generally have a support team behind them who helps the individual along the way,” Place said. “We want to make it happen and work for that person because there are opportunities to think creatively and collaborate to see how things can work to make it a good fit.”
Reach Camri Nelson at 567-242-0456 or on Twitter @CamriNews