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!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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One in five American adults will have a mental health condition in any given year, according to Mental Health America, a nonprofit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives. Often, mental health disabilities do not manifest in physical symptoms making them an invisible disability to others. Because they are often “unseen” and misunderstood, many individuals live silently with the burden of an untreated mental health condition.

There are also many different types of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar disorder, and others. May is Mental Health Month, a time to shine a light on mental health, lessen the stigma, and create a more inclusive environment.

The following story is based on true PRIDE Industries employee’s life. He is happy to share, but asked us not to use his real name. We will call him Mark.

Mark, 48, joined the PRIDE Industries team in the early 90’s. For eight years, Mark worked on PRIDE’s McClellan Air Force Base grounds maintenance crew. He left PRIDE for a brief period and worked with a local business providing landscaping services in the community. In 2001, he returned to PRIDE where he joined a supported employment group in Sacramento.

Through hard work, diligence, and dedication, Mark gained a promotion to PRIDE’s landscaping crew providing ground maintenance services to federal courthouses in Sacramento and city parks in Roseville, CA. Mark’s group consists of six individuals with disabilities supported by two supervisors.

His position with the landscaping crew allows Mark to work independently in the community. Looking at Mark, no one would know his struggles, but he has lived for years with schizophrenia. 1.1% of adults in the U.S. live with schizophrenia, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Schizophrenia interferes with a person’s ability to think clearly, manage emotions, make decisions, and relate to others. Often times, individuals with schizophrenia suffer additional illnesses such as post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive disorder or major depression.

“Mark is a hard worker and is very dependable, very easy going, and has a great sense of humor,” says Tony, a PRIDE landscape manager. “Mark is always ready to do the job and he is great to work with.”

At a time when most of us are still sound asleep, Mark’s workday begins at four o’clock in the morning. PRIDE provides transportation for the groups which are picked up at their homes to begin shifts by 5:30 AM. All federal courthouse grounds must be manicured before their doors open at 8 AM.

“I like being with my crew, we all have a great sense of humor,” says Mark. “We just go out there and get the job done – we do the best we can.” He even made a friend at work: they live near each other and have many things in common.

At PRIDE Industries, Mark found a safe environment where he can be himself and is encouraged to overcome challenges. “In the beginning Mark was afraid to try new things – he was afraid he would do them wrong,” says Robin, Mark’s case manager at PRIDE. “He has come a long way in his skills and confidence.” Mark replies, “I guess I got a little bolder with encouragement.”

Mark continues to grow in his position. Robin encourages Mark during their check-in meetings, reminding him that he can do anything he sets his mind to. Mark’s next goal is to buy a car so he can get to and from work on his own.

Although mental illnesses may require intensive, long-term treatment and effort, individuals can and do recover, or live productive lives with appropriate supports. Unfortunately, there is no cure for schizophrenia, but it can be treated and managed with medication and psychotherapy. Recently, Mark suffered a mental breakdown and was unable to work. Fortunately, with the proper treatment Mark made a speedy recovery and returned to work knowing his job would be waiting for him once he was better. Through coaching, placement, and job skills development individuals with developmental, intellectual, mental health, sensory and physical disabilities can find success with PRIDE.

We’re proud to have Mark on our team and grateful to his entire group for making us look good to our customers.

For more information on mental health and how to help others, click here.

View the video below to learn more about Schizophrenia:

A Valuable Part of The Team

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Eric McCullough, 50, is a key member of PRIDE Industries’ custodial team ensuring that the Sacramento International Airport Terminal B is spotless.

It is hard to miss Eric’s enthusiasm and dedication to his job. He has received numerous letters from travelers praising his work and giving him kudos. In the selfie era, Eric has become an unofficial PRIDE celebrity at the airport. Recently, a traveler posted to PRIDE’s Facebook page: “Just met one of your outstanding employees at the Sacramento International Airport. Liked him so much I asked if we could take a selfie… Mr. McCullough totally made my morning!”

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“When doing my job at the airport, I don’t expect people to come up to me and give me recognition. I just let my work speak for itself, says Eric. “I am very serious about that.”

Eric says he is simply doing what he loves. “I enjoy treating the customers with respect; showing them where to go when they get lost, making them feel at home and giving them encouragement.” Although he takes the time to help others and assist where needed, his top priority is accomplishing his tasks. “My main goal is to get my work done in a timely manner.”

Eric has a developmental disability. He was referred to PRIDE at the age of 17,  and he has never wanted to leave the company. Over his 31 years with the company, Eric has held many jobs including a variety of packaging, assembly, and order fulfillment projects. Each job has helped him to develop new skills and improve upon his strengths.

“There are certain things I can’t do as well as other people, but I don’t let that stop me from achieving my goals in life,” says Eric. “I just do the best I can and move on from there.”

Four years ago, Eric decided he was ready for a new challenge. He joined one of PRIDE’s Supported Employment Program groups working at the airport. The Program partners with local businesses to meet their needs while creating community-based jobs for people with disabilities.

Working in the community has been great for Eric. “Eric works full-time, plus all holidays – his attendance is outstanding. He never misses a day,” says Robin Yniguez, a PRIDE Rehabilitation Counselor and Eric’s case manager. “Eric is a very valuable part of the team. He makes us look amazing!”

When asked what motivates him, Eric replies: “The energy in me keeps me going. It keeps me from being bored and gives me an opportunity to do nice things for people that I come in contact with.”

Eric is a humble individual who shares credit for his success. “I am very thankful that God has allowed me to work at the airport and use the talents and the gifts He has given me. If it weren’t for Him, I would not be out there, so I won’t take all the credit. However, I am proud of myself.”

We are proud of Eric, too. We hope his story has inspired you to think about creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities in your business or organization. And, next time you’re traveling through Terminal B in Sacramento, don’t forget to say “hello” to Eric. Better yet, just post your selfie!