Jobs needed for clients ready to work
D'An knows every student and faculty member at Centenary College, and she works hard to makes the cafeteria more than just a place to eat.
D'An is arguably the most important staff member at Centenary College. She fills the coffee pots in the cafeteria.
She also greets every student by name, and, with her bright smile, brings a some cheer to the stress of classes and exams.
About seven years ago, D'An was working at a sheltered workshop for people with developmental disabilities, but she knew she was capable of more. She came to Volunteers of America Employment Services, and staff members helped her find the job at Centenary, where she keeps the cafeteria in pristine condition.
"This is a big step up," D'An said. "I love it over here with the kids, and the kids love me."
Kris Carrier, the employment services specialist, firmly believes there's a job for everyone. She helped place D'An and has watched her go from shy and reserved to bubbly and confident.
But because of the economy, it has been hard for Carrier to find employers willing to hire people with disabilities. She now has 21 people ready and willing to work, but nowhere to send them.
"A year ago, I could go to an employer and say 'I know they have skills,' and the employer would say 'I want to help,'" Carrier said. "But now they have 30 applications for the same position."
Many of our clients have some skills and job experience - even some military experience - but they also have some barriers. Some have physical disabilities while others cope with mental illness.
Carrier carefully evaluates all of them in real world settings and can speak to their strengths. In general they are loyal and want to learn.
She is also realistic about her clients' abilities and said high-pressure, fast-paced jobs such as fast food are not usually good fits. But she has several who have been very successful as maintenance workers, stockers at grocery stores and in child care.
D'An's supervisor raved about her work ethic and her charm. She proudly shows off the spotless tables and windows, and feels like she's making a difference in the students' lives.
Personally, she also appreciates the independence that comes with an income.
"I can buy what I want and I don't have to ask anyone else to buy it for me," she said.
She already bought herself new furniture and she's saving money for a cruise.
"This is my first real job, and I'm keeping it," she said.
If you have a possible job opening for one of our clients, call Kris Carrier at 425-0618. Or please forward this e-mail on to someone who could help!