For fourteen years, Stacey Wolfinsohn has been bagging groceries while spreading cheer and a smile with everyone she encounters. She wouldn’t have the job she loves so much if it weren’t for the excellent Vocational Rehabilitation program at Paladin, Inc.
“They (the staff at Paladin) are awesome. It’s nice to be supported,” said Wolfinsohn.
Wolfinsohn is just one of the many talented individuals that Paladin supports through their Vocational Rehabilitation program. As a team, the Employment Specialists (ES) work hard to provide their participants with meaningful work and support them along the way.
“Our Employment Specialists are so hard working. They work evenings, weekends, whatever the client needs. It’s a job they’re proud of and love, but it’s hard work and they do such a great job,” said Diane Downs, Director of Employment Services at Paladin.
Through the state’s Vocational Rehab program, a person will choose Paladin for services and then go through a discovery process. This is where the ES finds out what skills and interests the individual has and may even take him/her out to actual companies to see what a job they may be interested in fully entails.
“We try to find where they would work best in the community, discover what skills they have, develop needed skills, and find out what they have an interest in so that when we do find them a job, they are well-placed, happy, and will flourish,” Downs said.
From there, the ES works with the participant to apply and get the job. From helping them create a resume or fill out applications to mock interviews and job training, the ES will spend as much time as needed working with the individual to get them ready for a new job.
“I love when they conquer that interview, watching them exchange and have a conversation with someone else. It’s also great when they get the job without me sitting in on the interview. It shows me that all of those interview skills and questions I worked with them on really paid off,” said Freya Churchwell, Employment Specialist at Paladin. “When they get the job, it makes me feel like I got the job. I’m so proud.”
Once the person lands a job, the ES works closely with them during training and their first few weeks employed to ensure that everything is running smoothly. As the individual settles into the position, it’s time for the ES to slowly pull back and let him/her thrive.
“My favorite part of the process is when the client doesn’t need us there all the time. They’ve progressed, and that’s the most fulfilling part when they don’t need me. I did my job,” said David Washington, Employment Specialist at Paladin.
Thriving at work is something many Paladin participants do well. They enjoy their work and are dependable employees.
“Our clients are a reliable workforce. They rarely call off, they hate being late, and they’re extremely reliable. It’s a win-win,” Downs said.
Wolfinsohn, for instance, has been bagging groceries at Al’s for seven years and has become a dependable employee whose effervescence and cheer touches the lives of her co-workers and customers. And that dedication and hard work have certainly been rewarded.
“I was given gift cards for coming in on my days off. I like being rewarded for my hard work,” Wolfinsohn said.
For individuals like Wolfinsohn, having the independence to go to a job they enjoy is important.
“My job gets me out of the house. It’s been amazing, and the environment is so cool,” she said.
Being a part of any type of community is something most people crave, and the people at Paladin are no different. Those who are out in their local communities are receiving a vital opportunity to socialize with other people, as well as showing local businesses and communities that individuals with disabilities are just like them.
“It’s important to interact and socialize. It brings awareness to the community that our participants are fully capable of doing anything anyone else is doing. It has opened a lot of people’s eyes to what they can contribute to the community and businesses. They need to socialize and the community needs to socialize or work with our clients,” Downs said.
The clients who are a part of the Paladin’s Vocational Rehabilitation Program also gain a huge amount of confidence through their employment.
“You have a sense of worth when you have a job; It does a lot for your self-worth. Most people who aren’t working know the horrible feeling that is,” Downs said.
“You’re giving a person a sense of pride and helping them become a part of a community. You’re giving to them, and they’re giving back,” Churchwell said.
“When you see a person feel good about themselves and you know you helped them, you feel good yourself,” Washington said.
Maybe that’s why participants like Wolfinsohn stay with Paladin for years. They’re given the care and support they need to be the best they can be, and they bring that same dedication into their work place. And they’re just happy to be there.
“I really enjoy working with the customers and the staff,” Wolfinsohn said.
For more information on Paladin, Inc. and the services they offer, visit their website http://www.paladin.care/.