Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Holly's Story: Food, Music and Nice People

Profiles in Employment: A Celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month


What do you like most about your job?
The really good  food. I get free lunch!

Is there anything about your job (or you) that would surprise people to know about?
The music is really cool.

What has been your best experience about working at Cafe 43 so far?
I have really nice people to work with.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ben's Story: Doing Things His Way

Ben Huwe owns his own business, selling gift bags and cards out of Elk Drug Store in Dayton, WA. He likes being around people and having his business inside a store where people are coming and going, and there's a lot of activity.

Ben Huwe Cards & Designs (Dayton, WA)
In the past, he has been commissioned to make a large quantity of bookmarks for students who read in the Dayton School District and for a Dayton car event All Wheels Weekend. He hopes to expand his business soon.

Last year he made the front page of the Union Bulletin when he and his house manger lobbied for him to be able to do his sidewalk chart art in Downtown Dayton.

Ben is happy with his job and says other people should do their own job!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Alexa's Story: A Double Tall Order to Fill

Original profile written by Puget Sound Personnel

Customers at the Issaquah Gilman Starbucks know they can count on two things when Alexa is working: a spotless lobby and her engaging spirit to brighten their day. When she first met with Puget Sound Personnel (employment provider) in 2004, Alexa knew that her favorite coffee shop would also be the place where she found her dream job. A family contact helped open the door for PSP to develop the ideal cafe position for Alexa where her professionalism and ability to remember names, faces and drink orders keep loyal customers coming back.

“At Starbucks my co-workers are really nice and helpful and we sell
amazing drinks like Frappuccinos.”

After expressing a desire for more work hours and added challenge, PSP developed a second job for Alexa as a hostess at Applebee’s in Bellevue in the fall of 2009. As the first and last face patrons see when going through the doors, Alexa makes sure that every customer's experience begins and ends in a positive manner. Her work ethic, attention to detail and love for people have helped make her a workplace success with customers and co-workers alike at both job locations. And, that's a double tall order to fill!

"I love both my jobs. At Applebees, my co-workers are also very nice and
it is a fun place to work. Everyone is very friendly to me.”
Alexa is highlighted in this month's Starbuck's newsletter and is scheduled to speak at corporate headquarters this month. Way to go, Alexa!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Julie's Story: 10 Years and Counting

Julie has been working as an Administration Secretary for the Department of Human Resources for 10 years, where she works hard doing data entry and checking the website for broken links.

Julie uses Dynavox to communicate with her computer.
 "I never envisioned myself doing this," she says. "I like my boss. I like going to work. I don't like sitting at home."


What does she like best about her job? Without missing a beat, she answers: "The money."

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Eric's Story: Having the Life You Want

By Guest Contributor, Eric Matthes

I am an Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator for The Arc of King County. My greatest accomplishment is realizing that I am more of a person, being humbled and responsible for my actions. 

I understand what it feels like when you give yourself up for others and think less of yourself, as long you take good care of yourself and just know how brave and intelligent you want to be.

I came to the [conclusion] that letting people have choices and independence [means] having the life you want. 

Eric Matthes, Outreach & Advocacy Coordinator
The Arc of King County


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

John’s Story: From Professional Volunteer To Community Based Employment

A few years ago, I went to DC for my second trip to The Arc’s national policy seminar. While we were there, we met with Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers. When she asked what I wanted to be, I told her: “I want to be a taxpayer.” 

by John Lemus, Guest Contributor

From 2005-2013, I flew many miles for my service on the State DD Council, and I had a lot of small talk with people in the seat next to me. The inevitable question was always asked: “So what do you do?” My answer was almost always: “I’m a professional volunteer.”

In January 2013, I was able to answer the same question with the following: “I’m in charge of Community Relations for the largest Developmental Disability Non Profit in Spokane.” After many years of hard volunteer work and job searching on my own, I had been hired as the Community Relations Facilitator. I still remember the rush I felt signing my first offer letter.


On any given day, my job includes meeting with prospective new clients, going to schools to talk about the services SKILS’KIN provides, creating marketing materials, attending community meetings, attending resource fairs, connecting with city and state leaders, working with our promo vendors, managing our social media, planning launch events, and working to promote SKILS’KIN and our programs in the community.

I love my job. There’s nothing better than earning a paycheck and taking care of the things I need and want by myself! I work out in the community the majority of the week making connections for SKILS’KIN. Oftentimes, I find that people are surprised to see someone with developmental disabilities doing the job I’m doing. Most individuals who do the work that I do have 4 year degrees in public relations or marketing. It’s been really cool to be a part of breaking down the stigma that people with developmental disabilities can be successful in these types of roles.

I had a lot to learn in the beginning about the business side of the I/DD realm. For years, my career focused around the self-advocacy movement and advocating for policies and improvement; I now understand the bigger picture of how funding works, how services are provided, what the state program & waiver rules are, and what DDA has to do to implement them. Now, I know how to devise advocacy for programs around that.

One of the things that really surprised me about my job is how much I really needed to improve in certain areas. English/grammar and sentence structure has never been my high point. I’m blessed to work for an agency who understands this and who has created opportunities for me to improve in this area with the expectation that improvement happens.

SKILS’KIN is a data driven company. A lot of what I’ve had to learn on the business side is how to track lots of data for the items in our community relations plan and how to measure return on investment. I’ve learned to live the mantra of In God We Trust. Everyone Else, Please Bring Data.

A huge accomplishment is that this year I was accepted and received a scholarship to an absolutely amazing servant leadership program here in the local area. I’ve always wanted to go through the program, but the tuition is really steep. After only being with SKILS’KIN for a year and six months, they were willing without hesitation to fund the leftover portion of the program tuition. I love working for a company who supports me and is willing to invest in me as a leader.

If look back on my gap years, I would say the biggest piece of advice I would give to other individuals with disabilities looking for work is to try different things, even if they aren’t the jobs that you want. I knew what I wanted for employment, and I wasn’t willing to settle. This hurt me during my gap years. After I graduated from high school, I wasn’t able to find a job because I had minimal experience. I had been volunteering for my local Arc for a year. After I graduated from Community IMAGES, a local transition program, The Arc hired me as an AmeriCorps Volunteer. I worked for them for three years. After that, I still had trouble finding a job for seven years because I didn’t have experience outside of the disability field.

One of the biggest things I tell transition students is that a diverse resume is so important in a competitive job market. I would also encourage them to engage work incentive planners in their area. The myth that you will lose benefits because you are working is not true. In most cases, you may still receive a reduced cash payment; and if not, you may still be eligible for Medicaid through the 1619b program.

To employers, I would say that people with disAbilities are some of the most dedicated and hardworking employees you will ever have. We love jobs and providing for ourselves. Think outside the box. A lot has been done through customized supported employment to help make sure that, once you hire an individual, they will always have the training they need from their employment support specialists to help them retain their job or learn new tasks.

Five years from now, I hope to still be at SKILS’KIN, and maybe be Director of Community Relations! One thing is for sure: I wouldn’t be where I am today without a handful of amazing people who have supported me along the way.
My parents, who taught me the value of hard work.
AFS Team at The Arc of Spokane, for getting me started at a young age and teaching me to respect and understand the perspectives and struggles of parents who have children with disabilities.

Donna Lowary & Lance Morehouse, for teaching me everything you know and supporting me to move forward even when I made mistakes.

Marcie Osborne, who invited me to CEA’s annual employment conference where I met my current boss, and within a few month had signed an offer letter at SKILS’KIN.

The team at SKILS’KIN, who has been incredibly supportive of me and my visions for our community relations initiatives.

The DD Council, who invested many years of time and resources in me to help me become the leader I am today.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Shawn Latham: Connecting People to Their Community

Profiles in Employment: A Celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month

I’m currently the Peer Group Coordinator for the Center for Independence North Sound, one of four hundred Independent Living Centers in the country. I help people find local community services and assist them with making community connections that will make them more independent in their lives. I’m also a member of several advocacy groups.

During my time at this center, and also at two others, I found that making connections is an important step in finding a job, a roommate, and just good friends to hang out with.

It's important to always try to see what others have to offer.
I’ve learned no one is the same, and no two communities are the same, so my advice is listen and observe what your particular community has to offer.