Worth The Effort

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It takes more than a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to keep someone like Sam Azevedo down. When Sam was referred to PRIDE Industries’ Modesto, Ca., office, it was clear that he was determined to get a job. He worked with his job coach and, instead of applying for one job every day as another motivated job seeker might do, Sam applied for five jobs a day and as many as 40 in a week.

Sam’s determination and his upbeat attitude made the PRIDE staff work even harder to help him find that job. But it was not easy. Sam is high-skilled, but he has a hard time with social cues and interactions, which made interviewing difficult. It took several months of diligent searching and interviewing before he landed a position as a courtesy clerk at Grocery Outlet.

The job has turned out to be worth the effort and wait. Grocery Outlet is a family-owned store that carries that sense of family to its employees and customers. After almost a year on the job, Sam still loves his work. “It really means a lot to have a job because I am on a regular schedule and making money with consistent hours,” says Sam.

pride-industries-sam02The store’s loyal following of regular customers all know Sam by name, and many make a point of saying “hello” when they come in to shop. Owners Roger and Heidi Custer also have high praise for Sam and his work ethic. “Sam is delightful and an important part of our family,” says Roger. “And he’s an asset to our staff.”

People like Sam touch our lives as do many of the employees of PRIDE Industries. It’s a privilege to know and share their journeys.

Keep up the great work Sam!

A Positive Attitude

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Kindness and a positive attitude can go a long way to brighten up a work environment. Anthony Williams, a custodian at PRIDE Industries’ DLI (Defense Languages Institute) contract in Monterey, Ca., consistently applies this attitude every day to his job. So much so that he has received several comments from customers, including most recently:

“I would like to voice my appreciation for a job well done by your organization.

It is always a pleasure to write a letter about an exceptional employee. Please extend my sincere gratitude to Anthony Smith. He is very punctual, professional and polite. His work is always excellent and my working space always looks great. I just wanted to make sure you know how much he is valued and appreciated. He is very courteous and is an asset to your organization. Mr. Smith keeps a very positive attitude. He is always very determined to do a stellar job when he comes to our office, and his attitude brightens up our office.”

Thank you, Lindsey N.

Like many other individuals with a disability, Anthony needed an opportunity to showcase his abilities. Anthony has dyslexia, a learning disability that affects reading, writing, spelling and even speaking. Millions of Americans have dyslexia, but it is still often misunderstood. For those who have it, words often look foreign, creating challenges for routine tasks.  “It has always taken me a lot longer to read and write,” says Anthony. “Filling out job applications and going through interview process always proved to be intimidating tasks.”

Before coming to PRIDE, Anthony worked in the hospitality industry. After being laid off, his wife recommended that apply for a position at PRIDE. In 2010 he was hired. Six years at PRIDE has built Anthony’s confidence, and he has thrived. “PRIDE’s mission has truly helped me feel comfortable in my job,” says Anthony. “My coworkers all support each other. My supervisor Rita has been wonderful to work with, she has been exceptionally supportive and understanding.”

The Defense Language Institute (DLI) is a United States Department of Defense (DoD) educational and research institution consisting of two separate entities which provide linguistic and cultural instruction to the Department of Defense and international guests. In his position, Anthony supports both our military and diplomatic allies. “The military does so much for us, and I am proud to contribute to their well-being,” says Anthony. “I love working with people from all around the world, all walks of life.”

“I take a lot of pride in my job, and it has helped me grow as a person,” says Anthony.

His passion is his family – he aims to purchase a home and send his children to college. “I love coming in every day and look forward to my future with this company.”

Thank you Anthony for all of your hard work and dedication!

Top 10 of 2016

Happy New Year!

We value and appreciate those who visit, share, and comment on the stories we post. As one year ends,  we welcome the next, and look back at the posts you liked and shared the most throughout 2016.

Top posts for 2016:
iStock_000057740652_Full  10. Choose Your Path With PRIDE
American flag outdoors in a meadow on july 4th.  09. Independence: An opportunity for All
PRIDE Youth Services _ Melissa04  08. A New Perspective on Life
PRIDE Industries _ D Ramsey _ Los Angeles AFB  07. PRIDE is Like Family
PRIDE Industries_JeanineM  06. A Meaningful Alternative
PRIDE Industries_MsAlice  05. What I can Do
PRIDE Industries _ Charlie01  04. Can You Believe It?
PRIDE Industries _ Joey  03. An Opportunity for Meaningful Employment
pride-industries-_-richard_w  02. Feels Like I Never Left
PRIDE Industries_Dani  01. The Power of a Support Team
Thank you again,  we look forward to sharing more amazing stories in 2017!

Feels Like I Never Left

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Richard Wilson, joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, TX in 2014 after serving 18 years in the U.S. Army. Richard retired as a staff sergeant/E-6.
At PRIDE Industries, we help individuals who return with physical, emotional, and mental health disabilities that create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency.

Richard became an orphan as a very young boy. His first few years were spent in a South Korean orphanage until an American couple adopted him. At eight years old Richard relocated to the U.S. with his new family. Learning a new language, adapting to a different culture, along with being given a new American name was challenging, recalls Richard.

He grew up in a small town in northwest Nevada. His teenage years were rough as he made wrong decisions and was going down the wrong path and barely graduated high school. Richard hungered for a fresh start. He joined the U.S. Army hoping it would provide a better future.

“I did not think I was going to make a career in the military, luckily it was exactly what I needed,” says Richard. While in the service Richard held several positions and completed three tours in Iraq. His time in the military left visible and hidden battle wounds.

Once his military career ended, he had difficulty transitioning to the civilian workforce. Richard attended multiple job fairs and joined numerous veteran’s programs, but nothing came through and he was unemployed for six months.

Though Richard aspired to continue protecting his country after retirement, life had other plans. “I wanted to be a border patrol or law enforcement agent, but I was unable due to my medical condition.”

Fortunately, Richard met Cynthia Baca at a job fair. Cynthia is a Recruiter for PRIDE at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, focusing on individuals qualified under the AbilityOne Program. Under the AbilityOne program – a federal initiative to create jobs for individuals with significant disabilities – PRIDE Industries provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation. “After I got into the program, Ms. Baca always updated me on new job listings and helped me apply,” says Richard. For Richard, Cynthia’s efforts to help him become employed were unlike anything he had experienced before. He credits her for his success at PRIDE, “I now refer other disabled veterans to Ms. Baca for help.” Learn more about Cynthia Baca.

Once at PRIDE, Richard began as a service order desk clerk. Later, Richard’s skills and work ethic earned him a promotion to the warehouse as a stocker. “Helping the technicians is the best part of this job,” says Richard. “I love working at PRIDE Industries, and my co-workers in the warehouse are like family.”

Although he loves his job, he does miss being a soldier. Luckily, his job at PRIDE has an additional benefit. “Working in a military community feels like I never left the Army,” says Richard. “It is rewarding contributing to the team that helps soldiers and the civilians that work with them.”

Though Richard’s military career ended with a disability and new challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity. “PRIDE allows me to continue to serve the military community,” says Richard.

We are so glad you found your place with PRIDE Industries Richard and thank you for your service. To learn more about PRIDE’s employment services for veterans visit: prideindustriesfoundation.org/programs.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Frank Goehringer

pride-industries-_-frank-military-pic_editedAfter graduating from college, Frank Goehringer wanted to serve the country that he loved while pursuing a career. He enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 1988, a commitment that continued throughout two decades. Service brought Frank around the country and the world to Germany, Panama and Italy. Despite over a decade of experience, the most significant and challenging part of his service was in 2003 when the United States had declared war on Iraq; Frank learned that he would immediately be sent over.

To support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Frank served in a military intelligence unit. His job duties included identifying, assessing and countering threats to the military. “Even though I had been stationed abroad before, it was a big adjustment getting used to working in an active war zone,” says Frank. During this period, he became injured and required surgery. While receiving medical treatment, Frank received the devastating news that four troops had been attacked and killed – including soldiers in his former convoy.

“I didn’t get to participate much in the battlefield, but I witnessed the full impact of war.”

During his recovery from surgery, Frank volunteered to help other soldiers attend doctor appointments. It was there that he witnessed the physical, mental and emotional aftermath of war. “This was a very emotional time for me,” says Frank. “After I deployed to Iraq, a lot changed within me. I made it my personal mission to help our country’s veterans, especially after seeing the challenges that most faced after coming home.”

While lending a helping hand, including personally hosting some homeless veterans in his house, Frank learned best how to help veterans transition to civilian life. “One of the biggest challenges facing younger and recent veterans now is that they learn many useful skills – but have a difficult time translating these to civilian job positions while drafting a resume and cover letter. The lack of civilian workplace connections and living with the effects and stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also creates obstacles to employment. “

After retiring from the National Guard, Frank decided to look for a new career opportunity. By chance, he met with a PRIDE Industries recruiter and was recommended for the PRIDE’s Veteran’s Liaison – a new position created in 2012. “Coming to PRIDE was an incredible experience. It was amazing seeing what people with disabilities can do given the opportunity. I wanted to help expand these opportunities to veterans – with and without disabilities.”

Frank soon got to work. Through his position, he helps veterans navigate through different government programs to get benefits and prepares them for employment. Frank uses his extensive knowledge of veteran networks to expand the company recruiting outreach. To bridge the gap between military and civilian skills, he helped with the creation of PRIDE’s internship program in 2014, where veterans are placed in a three-month paid internship to gain valuable work experience. Throughout his time at PRIDE Industries, Frank has successfully reached out to help veterans gain access to opportunities across the nation.

Frank’s commitment to his country and fellow veterans has continued beyond his role at PRIDE. He is a member of various organizations including AMVETS, AUSA (Association of the US Army), American Legion, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and Placer County Veteran Stand Down. Frank also is a volunteer and member with the Veteran Administration’s No Veteran Dies Alone, an organization which supports veterans in hospice care.

Thank you for your service and dedication Frank, and for your excellent efforts to help out our nation’s veterans. We are proud to have you at PRIDE Industries.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Enoch Mitchell

 

pride-industries-_-enoch-mitchell“I wanted to serve in the US military to make a difference in the world.” Enoch Mitchell was inspired to join the Army after witnessing the 9/11 attacks in his hometown of NYC. In 2008, he enlisted with his older brother. With his previous education in aviation, Enoch completed his basic training in in air defense. In 2010, he deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I felt nervous but was excited to serve my country abroad. When I left, I flew to Germany first and then to a base near Baghdad, Iraq,” says Enoch. “After leaving the airplane and feeling the heat and seeing the red sky and American casualties – this all became reality.”

In his role as a Sergeant, Enoch kept the base safe by notifying soldiers of incoming artillery and intercepting rocket fire. This demanding positioning requires an advanced knowledge of air defense systems to provide 24/7 protection. During this period, Enoch shattered his leg; metal plates and pins were placed in the bone to keep it together. Due to this injury, his tour ended in 2011.

“It felt bittersweet coming home. It was good to be back, but I missed the familiarity and closeness of the military,” says Enoch.

After returning to the United States, Enoch requested to be stationed at Ft. Bliss until he retired in 2013. Transitioning from the military into civilian life is often a challenge, especially for veterans with service disabilities. Enoch struggled to find work. He found jobs at call centers, but none gave flexible accommodations that allowed him to deal with his injured leg and as a result, were short-lived. Enoch kept looking, and fortunately in 2015 was connected with PRIDE Industries.

Previously while stationed at Ft. Bliss, Enoch had interacted with PRIDE employees working on this contract. “From my experience, I saw that PRIDE was excellent company to work for, especially with the mission to create jobs for people with disabilities.” He worked with PRIDE’s AbilityOne Recruiter, Cynthia Baca, to apply for positions. Two months later, Enoch started working as a Service Order Desk Clerk, where he handles service orders through the plumbing shop.

Enoch has become a valued member of his team. Accommodations such as an ergonomic chair and a standing desk to make computer work comfortable for his leg, as well as flexibility for stretching breaks and medical appointments, have allowed him to thrive in his position. “I cannot see myself working anywhere else,” says Enoch. “PRIDE is different because they see you as more than just an employee, but as a person. The professionalism and teamwork exhibited by my colleagues make working here pleasant.”

Looking toward the future, Enoch is aiming to get into a management position. His mother recently relocated from El Paso from Brooklyn, and he proudly bought her a vehicle. Enoch hopes to have to rest of his family relocate to El Paso to reunite and to eventually purchase a home.

“I always feel respected as an employee, and greatly enjoy my job and coworkers. When you do what you love, and you never work a day in your life,” says Enoch. “I get to do this.”

We are glad to have veterans such as Enoch be a part of the team at PRIDE Industries, and help them to achieve their new goals and dreams.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Ron Adams

pride-industries-_-ronleyadams_editedRonly “Ron” Adams grew up in the small community of Dothan, Alabama. After graduating high school, he worked in the healthcare field. Although he earned a paycheck, Ron found himself longing to be part of a bigger calling. Deciding to serve his country, Ron enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006.

Ron soon moved to North Carolina for basic training. These preparations were both mentally and physically challenging but made him ready for the next step. When volunteers were asked to deploy to Iraq in 2007, Ron raised his hand. “The attacks of 9/11 were still fresh in my mind and heart, and I wanted to defend my country,” says Ron. “I was nervous but excited; this is what I signed up for.”

In the Marine Corps, Ron served as an E3 Lance Corporal. In this role, he drove in a convoy for long trips across the country, clearing roads of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). This work was dangerous but necessary; these weapons were responsible for a majority of the deaths to service members in Iraq.

“While traveling out with the convoys, we got to meet and be friendly with the civilians. I passed out candy and muffins to the kids,” says Ron. “It was here where I observed how much freedom we have in the United States. We have so much to be grateful for.”

After serving a one-year tour in Iraq, Ron returned home to Alabama. Even though he had returned with a greater appreciation for life in America, transitioning to a civilian life proved to be difficult. “It took a while for me to adjust; I sometimes thought that it would be easier to re-deploy,” says Ron. “However, with time, I began to heal.” With the winding down of his military career in 2010, Ron began searching for a new career path.

Finding employment turned out to be another obstacle to civilian life. Before coming to PRIDE Industries, Ron worked a series of jobs with no benefits. A friend recommended that he apply for opportunities at PRIDE’s contract at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Ron got in touch with Stephany Marshall, PRIDE’s Rehabilitation Counselor at Fort Rucker. She recommended him for a Maintenance Trades Helper position, and Ron was hired in 2014.

Due to his hard work and drive to succeed, Ron excelled in his new job. Wanting to advance, he decided to go for a pest control position. For several months, Ron diligently studied and passed the tests to earn his pest control license and gained the promotion. This position came with not only a higher paycheck but also greater independence and satisfaction in his work.

“After leaving the military, I missed being in the Marines. This feeling has continued, but working for PRIDE makes me feel at home,” says Ron. “My job on base gives me a sense of comradery and an opportunity to support the military.”

Recently, Ron purchased a home and a new vehicle and is resettling into civilian life with his wife and three children. “With this job position, I have been able to help my family out financially while continuing to participate in military life. I could not imagine being anywhere else.”

From all of us at PRIDE Industries, thank you, Ron, for your service and contributions to our country. We are proud to have you as a colleague.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Javier Heredia

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“I have always wanted to be a soldier and serve my country.” Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Javier Heredia enlisted in the US Army as soon as he graduated from high school in El Paso, Texas. He served from 2010-2015, including a deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Javier worked as an SPC 13F Forward Observer. In this demanding position, the soldier keeps track of the positions of both friendly troops and opposing forces. They also go behind enemy lines to keep track of movements and to provide the right coordinates for fire. Javier completed his tour of duty in 2015 and returned to his hometown where he was stationed at Fort Bliss, TX. Because of his disability, he was medically discharged and retired from the Army.

After retirement, Javier had no source of income or a job. “I would send in application over application without luck. I filed for unemployment and food stamps just to make sure I had money and food to support my wife and daughters,” says Javier. After receiving no offers of employment, he became even more anxious about his situation. Javier contemplated pursuing a security guard job until he received a call from for an interview with PRIDE Industries. Two weeks later, he was officially employed.

In March 2016, Javier joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, as a Property and Fleet Clerk, where PRIDE provides facilities support services through the federal AbilityOne Program. Javier helps operations run smoothly on base by managing tool and equipment inventory, property management and vehicle maintenance. “I could not ask for a better job. Supporting a military base has helped create a smoother transition to civilian life” says Javier.  “Even though I am still learning, I always feel like a respected member of the team; everyone has an important part to contribute to PRIDE’s mission.”

With a steady job, Javier now aims to buy a house. His long-term plan is to attend college and study military history to become a teacher. Meanwhile, he would like to keep learning new skills through his job at PRIDE and expand his knowledge of his trade. “PRIDE has supported me with excellent training and motivated me to succeed,” says Javier. “It is a great company. Working here has had a very positive effect on my life.”

We thank you, Javier, for your service. PRIDE Industries is proud to support veterans such as Javier through their transition to civilian life while pursuing their careers and dreams.

A Goal in Mind…

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

 

When Matthew Parker graduated high school he did as many grads do, and dreamed of what his future career path would look like. He had goals and ambitions; knowing that eventually he wanted to work with animals in the community. However, he felt like he was below sea level, staring up at very high mountains between him and his dream.

An intimidated, young Matthew with Asperger Syndrome—now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder—and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) started volunteering, hoping that it would turn into employment. “My very first working job was over at Atria. They had me clean dishes, but they decided not to hire me because I was having a hard time multi-tasking, communicating and adapting to changes,” remembered Matthew, “I really struggled quite a bit when I was younger.”

Matthew remained determined to succeed as he found employment at PRIDE Industries. In a specialized environment for individuals with disabilities, Matthew found supports that he never had before. He practiced basic soft skills necessary for employment, such as good hygiene. “They designed a worksheet for me with visual hints so I could get better about having cleaner hands and less germs,” said Matthew.

A case manager at PRIDE saw immense potential within Matthew. “I quickly realized that Matthew was so capable,” said Dawn Horwath. “We could give him any task and he could do it.”

PRIDE tapped into many resources throughout the years to prove to the community what a capable employee he is. He participated in multiple PRIDE operated External Situational Assessments (ESA)—trial community jobs to assess workers’ capabilities. In 2005 he completed Personal Vocational and Social Adjustment (PVSA) services—person-centered training to overcome barriers including communication, assertiveness, anger management, etc. “It was amazing to see such incredible growth and determination in Matthew with each step,” said Dawn, “It has been a long journey, but we never gave up on him.”

As someone who previously needed repeated patterns and routine, he was finally adapting to a variety of job responsibilities and conquering barriers one by one. “I used to have a hard time when things changed all of a sudden,” Matthew reminisced, “but now I have learned how to handle it and I am much more flexible.”

A speech and language counselor, Dyann Castro-Wehr, partnered with PRIDE to help Matthew overcome communication barriers. “Dyann has been great at helping me,” said Matthew, “sometimes I would tell her about a situation and she could figure out a little trick to help me overcome it.” Dyann created an anger meter for Matthew to become aware of his feelings and express himself in the best way possible.

Each day of Matthew’s journey at PRIDE was a stepping stone to his employment in the community. Community employment brought new successes and new disappointments, but now he’s applying his communication and problem solving skills—something that has been beneficial in many facets of his life, especially as he adjusts to newly married life.

Matthew has been successfully working in the kitchen at Cascades of Grass Valley, a retirement community, for a year and a half. PRIDE Employment Services still work with him to ensure his success continues. “It makes me feel so relieved” Matthew said about his PRIDE job coach meetings, “because I have a much better support system than I did when I first started out.” Together Matthew and his job coach have weekly discussions to work out any difficulties he might have at work.

As Matthew reflected back on how far he’s come, he proudly said, “I feel pretty good about myself. I have a great life going for me right now, but I definitely have a goal in mind so I’m going to keep working hard to get there.”

Congratulations Matthew on conquering one more stepping stone. You’re on your way to your dream job!

Inclusion Works: National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). The month-long celebration is themed “Inclusion Works” and places a spotlight on the contributions made by workers with disabilities and educates the public on the value of a diverse workforce.

For 50 years, PRIDE Industries has created jobs for people with disabilities while championing inclusion and a diverse workforce. At PRIDE, we know that inclusion does work and has transformed its mission into countless daily success stories.

Often, with accommodations at work, whether to their workspace, schedule or with the help of assistive technologies, many individuals with disabilities can become or remain gainfully employed. In most cases, hiring people with disabilities is no different than hiring any other job candidate.

By partnering with PRIDE Industries, businesses can leverage its person-centered services including assessments, job skills development, training, placement, transportation, and on-going support to ensure long-term employment success. PRIDE places people in its own business lines and provides support to more than 500 individuals annually in community-based opportunities.

Following are a few examples of individuals with disabilities who found employment success with a little help from PRIDE:

Melissa
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Making positive change is never easy, but with support and guidance, Melissa’s life transformed and she is now living a life she never thought possible.

More about Melissa’s journey, click here.

 
 

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

Through PRIDE’s job coaching services, Alice is celebrating 17 years of working in the community. For more on Alice’s story, click here.

 
 

Derek
pride-industries-_-d-ramsey-_-los-angeles-afbAs a retired veteran, Derek struggled with applying his former skill-set to the civilian workforce.

Through PRIDE Derek found a new career while continuing to serve his military family. More on Derek’s journey, click here.

 
 

Dani
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Job hunting is a difficult process. For a young, first-time job seeker with disabilities, the process can be even more daunting.

Through participation in PRIDE programs and services, Dani is on her way to the future she imagined, “Now I feel like I am becoming more of the adult I want to be.”

For more on Dani’s journey, click here.

 
 


Are you interested in hiring employees with disabilities in your business? Speak to our expert staff by contacting us at info@prideindustries.com.