An Opportunity to Find Meaningful Employment

PRIDE Industries _ Joey

Finding a new career after leaving the workforce due to illness or disability can often be a daunting task. Joey Guillot is a carpenter at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Polk in Louisiana. After a long period of unemployment due to his disabilities, Joey found a new place and career at PRIDE. To get to this point, he worked with much determination to overcome the numerous barriers posed by his disabilities.

As a result of an unaddressed learning disability, Joey became discouraged as a young student and dropped out of high school during his freshman year. Since he had left school so early, he never received the help needed to overcome his illiteracy. Despite his lack of a high school diploma, Joey found work in the community and built a self-sufficient life.

However, later in life, Joey developed peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition that causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet and other parts of the body. His condition worsened to the point of almost near paralysis. Due to complications, Joey was forced to leave the workforce in 2001. After the unexpected death of his wife of 25 years, he also began to struggle with depression and alcohol abuse, and his life took a turn for the worse.

Although Joey received Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits, he never felt as fulfilled as when he was working. As the effects of his neuropathy began to improve, Joey decided to re-enter the workforce and search for a new career. Determined to reach his goal, he applied for employment services with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) in April 2014.

In spite of the many challenges that he faced, Joey strived to change his life Searching for a new career would not prove an easy task; a 13-year resume gap, lack of high school diploma, struggles with depression and substance abuse, and neuropathy all were great obstacles to even getting an interview. Furthermore, Joey’s illiteracy prevented him from completing a GED program or learning another trade. Joey worked closely with his LRS counselors to manage his depression and maintain sobriety. Fortunately, the search ended in 2014 when LRS referred Joey to a training program at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Ft. Polk.

PRIDE ended up being the perfect opportunity for Joey; after four weeks of on-the-job training, he was hired as a general maintenance worker in the carpentry shop. “PRIDE Industries has been a blessing to this region because they give people with disabilities an opportunity to find meaningful employment,” says LRS Counselor Don Green. “There are few employers in Beauregard and Vernon Parish (a rural area) that provide opportunities for earning good wages as well as accommodations for employees with disabilities.”

To help Joey succeed in his job, PRIDE’s rehabilitation staff provides counseling and job coaching. They have also worked with him on improving his literacy skills, and Joey is currently earning his GED. “Joey is a very hard and determined worker who does not allow his disability to hold him back from accomplishing anything he wants. He is capable of completing any task that is set in front of him,” says Rehabilitation Counselor Sonja Matthews. Joey’s hard work and perseverance impressed his supervisors; when a carpenter position became available, he applied and was hired on October 3, 2015. Joey has continued to thrive in his new role and is currently aiming to become a carpenter lead.

With support, Joey was able to turn his life around. Steady employment, and along with a supportive network which included his father, church community, and his LRS counselor, Joey has managed his depression and successfully maintained sobriety. He also recently married Mrs. Angela Pratt in October 2015 and is greatly satisfied with his new position and positive outlook on life.

 

The Power of a Support Team

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By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, marketing/rehab intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters. 

Job hunting is a difficult process for all who attempt to conquer it. For a young, first-time job seeker it is intimidating to approach the challenge of job postings, cover letters, resumes, and interviews. For a young person with developmental disabilities like Dani Jenkins, 22, it requires even more bravery to take on such a daunting task.

Dani initially began searching for a job on her own at age 18. She interviewed at various locations but found herself discouraged, not knowing what to say or even what to wear. “It was a hard, kind of lonely time in my life,” said Dani. “I was disappointed every time I left an interview and did not get the job, and I did not know if it would ever happen for me.”

The desire to contribute to her community and become independent motivated her to keep trying, but employers were overlooking her. Dani knew she desperately needed help so that she could successfully wear a nametag and collect a paycheck.

Initially, Dani was referred to PRIDE Youth Services, a program which provides vocational training for youth with challenges and disabilities. Counselors work one-on-one with each individual making a plan to achieve their employment of choice.

“I have so many great memories of my time with Danielle, my Youth Services counselor,” says Dani. “We discussed what not to wear to an interview and how to make a good impression. I remember our meetings being a really positive experience.”

To better prepare for the next step in landing a job in the community, Dani participated in PRIDE’s Employment Services Program. “They gave me knowledge and skills that lifted my confidence,” said Dani. “I learned how to interview and be persistent, jobs search skills and most importantly, not to be down on myself.”

During this training, Dani met regularly with a PRIDE job developer to identify her abilities and learn job seeking strategies. For individuals with disabilities, Job developers are a gateway to many employment resources. This training provided Dani with the validation that she needed to present herself as a valuable asset to any employer.

Finally, her endless hours of preparation proved to be successful. Raley’s customer service team lead, Chris, had no trouble recounting Dani’s interview. “Dani got herself hired. She is awesome. She came in, and she was persistent and energetic, and she made sure she got hired,” said Chris. Dani made a great impression during the interview process. “She even wrote a nice thank you letter – it was really cool. That was the first time ever.”

Dani is going on five months of employment at Raley’s. She loves her job, especially bagging groceries. “I just love that I get to help people,” said Dani, “It makes me feel happy that someone else is enjoying their day, and when the customers come back they say they are thrilled to see a familiar face.”

To ensure that Dani continues to excel in her employment she has weekly visits with a PRIDE job coach, Julie. Julie visits Dani at Raley’s, and together they work to overcome challenges such as prioritizing tasks and time management.

Throughout Dani’s time at PRIDE, she has collected a whole team of supporters that cannot forget her outgoing personality and great desire to help others. “Without them, I do not know if I would’ve ever gotten the job because they gave me way more knowledge and confidence and they are just awesome,” said Dani. “Now I feel like I am becoming more of the adult I want to be.”

Congratulations on your employment success Dani! You earned it!PRIDE Industries_Employment Services

PRIDE Is Like Family

PRIDE Industries _ D Ramsey _ Los Angeles AFB

Growing up in a small town in Connecticut, made Derek Ramsey, a service order dispatcher at PRIDE Industries – Los Angeles Air Force Base (LA AFB) contract, want to expand his horizons and explore the world.

This drive inspired Derek to join the US Navy as a young adult before he completed a college degree. Derek served in the Navy from 1999 – 2003 and was promoted from an E2 Seaman Apprentice to an Aviation Electrician Technician. Tours sent him twice to the Persian Gulf in 2000 – 2002. Derek was also briefly stationed in the Pacific and San Diego, CA. He retired from the military in 2002 and decided to move to Los Angeles.

Despite the skills that he learned while serving our country, Derek had difficulty finding permanent employment. Military jobs do not always translate easily to civilian work. “I have had jobs in purchasing, managing medical records, delivering mail, call center customer service – you name it, none of them worked out,” says Derek.

A factor was his diagnosis after military service of PTSD, and later Bipolar II Disorder. “My disabilities make it difficult for me to engage socially and concentrate on tasks,” Derek tells us. “I also frequently needed to take time off to go to medical appointments.” Due to lack of employer accommodations and understanding for his disabilities, Derek churned through jobs without developing a career trajectory.

Employment difficulties soon carried over into his personal life to the point where Derek found himself homeless for two years. “For a long time, I didn’t seek any help,” says Derek. Eventually, he turned to the Department of Veteran Affairs for help in finding housing. While at a doctor’s appointment, he discovered a flyer advertising for a service order dispatcher position at PRIDE Industries. He applied and was hired in early 2015.

PRIDE Industries ended up being just the opportunity that Derek needed; he recently celebrated his first year job anniversary. “This is one the longest jobs that I have ever had,” says Derek. “It was difficult, initially, being back on a military base. But I now feel comfortable working as a civilian and not as a soldier.”

The flexibility of time off for medical appointments and taking extra breaks has allowed Derek to excel in his position as a service order dispatcher. Job coaches and counselors are also available when needed to offer encouragement during challenging times. “Everyone is very supportive; PRIDE is like my family away from family,” says Derek.

Derek currently handles diverse service orders for LA AFB, including plumbing, electrical wiring, carpentry, locksmith, fire alarms, and engineering needs throughout the installation. He enjoys contributing to the running of the base. “Derek is always looking for ways to grow in his role,” says Laura Alvarez, PRIDE’s Service Order Supervisor. “He is responsible, takes great pride in his job, and is always a pleasure to work with.”

A permanent job has also helped Derek to achieve greater financial and personal stability. As a result, he has continued his education – a vital component of his career development. He recently earned a degree in Computer Networking and is now contemplating a future career in information technology.

We are proud to support veterans like Derek in employment and their career goals.

What I Can Do

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By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, rehab/marketing intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters.

“I like children’s natural curiosity and honesty. They look beyond the wheelchair at me, Ms. Alice, as a person that can give them a ride that day. They’re not looking at what I can’t do; they’re looking at what I can do,” said Alice.

Alice Kimble is celebrating her 17th year working at Lighthouse Child Development Center. Her journey has not been easy. However, she does not allow challenges to diminish her sense of purpose, her pride and most importantly, her contagious smile.

“To me, we all have a disability, the only difference is you can physically see mine” said Alice.

Her whole life she has enjoyed working with children. Lighthouse is a daycare facility and private kindergarten for children ages 6 weeks-6 years old. Throughout the last 17 years, Alice has spent time with each age group and realized that she especially enjoys working with the older children that can ask her questions. Her favorite activity is giving rides to children on her chair, but she also spends time consoling babies, feeding children, and monitoring playtime outside.

Lighthouse provides an environment in which children develop many life skills with the support of their teachers. While children play, they also learn and often turn to their trusted teacher with their curiosities.

Alice reminisced one instance in which a 4-year-old boy became curious about why Ms. Alice doesn’t walk. She explained to him, “my muscles aren’t strong enough to help me walk, but yours are”. He shouted gladly “Yeah, mine are!” Then, he offered to trade his legs with Ms. Alice so she could walk around like him.

Alice’s employer, Sandi Ford, recognizes that Alice adds value at Lighthouse with more than just her job skills. “The children have learned respect for individuals with wheelchairs and because of Alice they have been taught to help others who are not always able to help themselves,” said Sandi Ford.

PRIDE Industries_job coachPRIDE Industries has a long history of supporting Alice in her employment at Lighthouse. Gloria, Alice’s job coach, has visited her for years. On a weekly basis, they talk about and solve any challenges she might be facing at work.

“Gloria is my sounding board” explained Alice, “and if there was a really big problem and I didn’t feel comfortable going alone to my employer saying this is what I need or this is what I would like, then I know I could call Gloria up and she’d step in and help me talk to them.”

PRIDE job coaches provide individuals with confidence in the workplace. They are a trusted ear to listen to the struggles and the successes while offering access to resources. They give support and advice on how to deal with conflicts, how to approach a manager, or maybe how to adapt certain jobs to fit within the individual’s abilities.

“So to me they’re more than just job coaches, they become your friends too,” said Alice.

Alice beautifully exemplifies PRIDE’s vision for each individual. She desires to give back to the community and fulfill a need for purpose in her life. Alice said, “I’ve always known that people are always going to have to help me, regardless of how old I am. My biggest goal in life was to really just work because I wanted to give back to society like they gave to me.”

And Ms. Alice has proven herself to be a very valuable asset inspiring others in her community. She proudly related a story about a young girl who Alice cared for during her first few years at Lighthouse. This young girl told Ms. Alice that she wanted to grow up and be a doctor so she could help Ms. Alice and others like her. All these years later, this now young woman carries with her the precious memories of her childhood inspiration as she currently studies at San Francisco State to become a medical doctor.

PRIDE is honored to celebrate Ms. Alice’s success working in the community!

Independence: An Opportunity for All

American flag outdoors in a meadow on july 4th.

July 4th is Independence Day – a celebration of our nation’s independence. These days, there are many discussions about what constitutes independence and success for people with disabilities. Our programs and services help promote independence and self-reliance of individuals with disabilities.

Through our mission, we serve people with a broad range of disabilities – developmental, intellectual, physical, sensory, mental illness and more. Individuals may be born with a disability or may acquire one through illness or injury – in everyday life, or in combat.

PRIDE supports many definitions of success as unique as the individuals we serve. For some, it is complete freedom from the reliance upon supports and services. For others, it is simply the opportunity to participate and contribute to their community. Meanwhile, the vehicle for accomplishing these unique goals is through employment. An opportunity. A job.

For 50 years, PRIDE’s mission has been creating jobs for people with disabilities. Through our work, we strive to provide opportunities at all skill levels to aid individuals in the achievement of their definition of independence.

Won’t you join PRIDE Industries in creating jobs for people with disabilities?

Contact PRIDE at info@prideindustries.com to learn how your business can employ individuals with disabilities.

From all of us at PRIDE, Happy Independence Day!

In Honor of Our Fallen Heroes

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“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” ~Lee Greenwood

On Monday, May 30th – Memorial Day – we pause and remember the brave women and men who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our freedom.

At PRIDE Industries, we create jobs for people with disabilities. Our mission includes veterans who return with physical, emotional, and mental scars which create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency. We also work to provide an opportunity for those who simply have difficulty rejoining the workforce. On this Memorial Day, we welcome our returning veterans and honor our fallen heroes.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

A New Perspective on Life | National Foster Care Month

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“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” — Walter Hagen

As a very young girl, Melissa was exposed to violence and a hostile environment. “I started doing things that I should not have been doing,” says Melissa. “I got into the drug lifestyle,” she told us, and from there it spiraled. “My environment was pretty violent with a lot of crime.”

Melissa’s life came to a screeching halt when she violated probation and was sent to Juvenile Hall. She served seven months. Shortly after her release, she found herself there again. Facing the possibility of six years in jail and an uncertain future, Melissa agreed to enter Koinonia Home for Teens. Koinonia is the last hope for many youths before long-term incarceration. The fear of losing her freedom motivated Melissa to take action.

Koinonia is a highly structured group home that provides treatment to chemically dependent youths ages 13-18. While there, Melissa was given the opportunity to grow and develop skills which could lead to self-sufficiency upon graduation. She learned how to make healthy choices, create structure in her life, and most importantly, how to maintain sobriety. PRIDE Industries works in partnership with Koinonia to help youths get on the right track.

Making positive change is never easy, but with support and guidance, Melissa’s life did, in fact, begin to transform. “When I wanted it, I was able to take advantage of all the help that Koinonia and PRIDE Industries were giving me,” says Melissa. “I really started getting it.”

Recovery happens in phases at Koinonia. During phase two, teens are allowed to seek a job. PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services program provides job search assistance, resume development, interview preparation, counseling, paid work experience, and more. PRIDE’s paid internship are made possible by generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation.
Melissa was drawn to mechanical engineering. She likes to see how things come together. Her passion for this area landed her a paid internship with PRIDE’s electronics department. “I really enjoyed it,” she tells us. “So much so, that I ended up working three extra months.” Through the internship, Melissa learned the importance of quality, proper communication with management, and, most importantly, accepting constructive criticism.

In her former life, criticism would result in conflict. “Coming where I came from, criticism led to confrontation,” says Melissa. She had trouble with authority, listening, and trust. Because of the skills gained through her internship with PRIDE, and the structure provided at Koinonia, Melissa is now able to take advice with grace and poise. “Be open to constructive criticism without taking offense,” Melissa recommends. “It is meant to help, not to hurt me.”

The transformation was arduous; there were many good and bad days along the way. But she did not give up. Melissa graduated the recovery program and earned a high school diploma. Today, she is living independently, has a job in the community, and is looking forward to a brighter future. “I feel pretty excited,” says Melissa. “It is a big accomplishment for me because I never thought I would make it to age 18 much less get a high school diploma.” Looking back at her accomplishments still feels a little surreal: “I was shocked. I am alive, healthy, and I have been sober for almost two years. It is pretty crazy.”

Though the voyage was difficult, Melissa explains: “I had to stop because I was going too fast in life; growing up way too quickly. I never stopped to smell the flowers. Finally, when those flowers were out of reach, I realized that I needed to stop before I never got the chance again.”

As she reflects on the past, she has a new appreciation for her journey. Though she once thought probation and the loss of freedom were horrible, she is now grateful for the intervention. When asked what helped her get through the dark days and tough times, she replies: “My freedom is something that always made me want to live.”

Nowadays, she enjoys the simple things such as sitting on the couch, painting, drawing and listening to music – something she longed for while behind bars in juvenile hall. These days, she can relax without the weight of the world on her shoulders. Melissa recalls being under so much stress she had to be reminded to breathe. “I would stress out so much, I felt like a fifty-year-old,” she tells us. “It was because of my lifestyle.” In contrast: “now, I feel my age, which is pretty amazing.”

Melissa has completely turned her life around and is focusing on the future. She has big plans. “I want to be a firefighter or a mechanical engineer,” she says. “If not, I will join the military and get into the Marines.” With a new perspective on life, these professions provide the physical activity and structure she enjoys and a way to give back to her community. “I feel that would help me give back for my past mistakes.”

We at PRIDE Industries are proud to help individuals like Melissa prepare for their future lives – and we wish her the very best!

 

Providing the Opportunity to Grow | Autism Awareness Month

PRIDE Industries _ Autism Awareness Month _ Cameron

Autism Awareness Month:

April is Autism Awareness Month, which highlights the challenges, conditions and recent research on this developmental disability. Autism encompasses a distinct group of complex developmental disabilities. Symptoms can range from very mild to severe, including difficulty with social behavior, communication deficits, fixated interests, and/or repetitive behavior.

More than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder. Thirty-five percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or gone on to secondary education. Studies have shown that steady employment can help ease symptoms and improve functioning in daily living. Individuals on the Autism spectrum can often make excellent employees due to their careful attention to detail and quality of work. They just need to be given the opportunity.

Starting a Career: Cameron’s Story

Cameron Sonneborn is a young adult with Autism that works at PRIDE Industries’ Roseville, CA facility. He is the second person in his family to work at PRIDE Industries; his grandmother was a case manager back when it was a small operation on Berry St. in Roseville. “We loved the idea of him coming here,” says Frances Sonneborn, Cameron’s mother. “We didn’t have to worry about Cameron being judged for his disability. At PRIDE, there is only acceptance.”

PRIDE is Cameron’s second job. He earned his first job as a weekend busboy at a local diner in 2009 – the first in his high school Workability Program to do so. Typical tasks include clearing dishes, serving coffee and greeting the many regulars he sees on a weekly basis. His friendly attitude and strong work ethic have made him successful in this role which he continues to work at part-time. However, he decided to explore other career options, as well, after graduating high school. After a series of jobs in the community, Cameron found his way to PRIDE.

Cameron joined PRIDE Industries in the summer of 2013 as a hand packager. He works on a variety of different contracts for PRIDE’s customers. “One of my favorite tasks was sorting jellybeans. President Reagan used to like those!” says Cameron. He is very interested in history, especially in the presidents of the United States and has an impressive recall of each and every one. Individuals with autism are often very detailed focused. This attention to detail aids him in his work and can be depended upon for quality results.

Cameron aims to work, eventually, on more advanced tasks but is happy in his current position for now. He greatly enjoys socializing with his coworkers and friends, some of whom he has known since high school. “Cameron didn’t talk much as a child,” says his mother, Frances. “We have noticed that his vocabulary and confidence have grown as a result of his employment with PRIDE.”

Employment opportunity has allowed Cameron to start a career that he enjoys; we are glad to have him as part of the team. “You can recognize Cameron by his friendly demeanor and his collection of different colored sunglasses,” says Maria West, Cameron’s case manager. “He is always positive and a great member of the team.” PRIDE is proud to employ and encourage individuals like Cameron providing the opportunity to grow in their lives.

Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month 2016

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For 50 years, PRIDE Industries has created opportunities for those often excluded from the labor force – people with disabilities. Instead of disability – we see unique abilities, and we celebrate accomplishments every day.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we celebrate the successes of individuals with developmental disabilities – our neighbors, friends, family members and coworkers.

Through employment people with disabilities gain a sense of purpose, dignity, inclusion, and lead more self-sufficient lives. Our programs are customized to provide assessments, career planning, training, placement, on-the-job support, follow-up and case management. We not only employ and support people with developmental disabilities at PRIDE, but have placed more than 500 individuals with disabilities in community employment. Many have been successfully employed with the same local employer for years. To learn more about our services, click here.

We can all play a role in helping individuals with developmental, and other disabilities go to work. How can you help? Consider ways in which opportunities can be created in your business or organization. Not sure how? Contact us. We’d be happy to help! Send an email to: info@prideindustries.com.

Can You Believe It?

PRIDE Industries _ Charlie02

Charlie’s day begins at three o’clock in the morning, a time when most of us are still asleep. While the moon is still shining, Charlie prepares to make a two-mile walk to catch the first light rail train. He then catches a bus which connects him to a PRIDE Industries shuttle. After a four hour journey, Charlie is finally delivered to work by seven in the morning. These are the lengths that Charlie goes through, twice a day, because he loves his job.

Charles “Charlie” Curtner, 65, has been working in the PRIDE Industries cafeteria since 2001. He is a vital member of the cafeteria team. His job requires him to clean tables, restock refrigerated beverages and food items, greet customers, and be a backup cashier when needed. Charlie’s work ethic, attention to detail, love for people, and his sense of humor have helped him be successful on the job.

Charlie’s brother introduced him to PRIDE in 1993. He applied for a dishwasher position at a PRIDE military base contract. “You’re hired!” Charlie recalls excitedly. This was only the starting point for Charlie.

Before PRIDE, Charlie had worked for years as a dishwasher in the community. Once at PRIDE, he held a variety of packaging, assembly, and order fulfillment jobs. Still, Charlie wanted more for himself. With support, Charlie found his place with PRIDE’s cafeteria team.

“Charlie is a very friendly person that always greets people and welcomes them to the cafeteria with a warm smile,” says Olivia Jones, Charlie’s supervisor. “He is very dedicated, hardworking, and is always willing to take the extra step to make sure he is doing his job well.”

Charlie has a disability but prefers to focus on his abilities. He lives independently and has for most of his adult life. Charlie does share his home with his cat named Sam, who was abandoned as a kitten, and named after Yosemite Sam, the cartoon character. And while Charlie loves cartoons, if you ask about retirement his response is: “Uh-uh, stay home and watch the idiot box and those goofy shows, oh no way! Wouldn’t that be boring?”

Charlie is very dedicated to his work, a place where his abilities are recognized. At PRIDE he has made friends and can be himself. He finds purpose in his job and often asks his supervisor: “What would you do without me?” Olivia’s response is, “I am not sure, but we do not want to find out.”

Never shy to share his life or funny side, Charlie often begins a conversation with, “Can you believe it?” He then proudly follows up with, “People want to know my secret,” as to how he remains youthful and in excellent health. We still do not know his secret.

While Charlie is no spring chicken, as the saying goes, he does not let age slow him down. Although his secret has not been revealed, he may have given us a clue: keep moving. Charlie’s drive comes from working. “Just keep working,” he says. “Who wants to retire? I have been here 23 years.”

Thank you, Charlie, for your dedication to PRIDE Industries and the cafeteria. We are so glad you are part of the PRIDE family.