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A job for all: Employment collaboratives connect disabled workers with employers

Original article published here:

http://www.gazettenet.com/Helping-those-with-disabilities-find-jobs-10135947

Jeanette White, 62, working at the the Blue Wall dining hall at UMass Amherst. The Western Massachusetts Employment Collaborative helped connect White with the employer. Caitlin Ashworth—

 

By CAITLIN ASHWORTH  @kate_ashworth

Sunday, May 21, 2017

AMHERST — Jeannette White whizzed through the Blue Wall dining hall at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, picking up empty cups and used napkins and wiping down the tables.

“I finally found a job that I like to do,” she said. “It keeps me busy…I love coming here,” White said.

But the finding a good job can be different for White. The 62-year-old has clinical depression.

She said a few years ago, times were tough with her mental illness. Other jobs didn’t work out well for her, she said. Most of her past jobs have been cleaning and housekeeping work at hotels and other facilities. She said she was fired from one hotel for not being fast enough.

But at the Blue Wall, she has no problem.

White’s supervisor, Tunde Gyorgy, said White is quick and a hard worker.

“She’s one of the best people here,” said Gyorgy, joking about finding a way to clone White.

White’s journey to her fulfilling job is the perfect example of the success of a so-called “employment collaborative.” Funded by the state government, these collaboratives serve as a bridge between the organizations that represent disabled workers and the companies throughout the region where they are placed in appropriate jobs.

About a year ago, White became a member of the Star Light Clubhouse in Florence, a program that offers services to adults with mental illness.

Elizabeth Kelly, a senior employment coordinator at Star Light, said the organization helped White find her direction and build up her confidence and self-esteem.

This new-found confidence prepared White for the job hunt. In stepped the Western Mass Employment Collaborative, a service that connects employers with disabled job candidates working with 24 agencies like Star Light and the Mass Commission for the Blind.

WMEC has a two main goals: to expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and to create a single point of contact for employers in Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden counties who want to hire, said employer liaison Jody Spitz.

The range of disabilities include mental illnesses, developmental disabilities and physical impairments. But Spitz said there is a large variety and everyone has different skills and abilities.

Since its inception two years ago, Spitz has created relationships with employers and hosts regular meetings with job developers.

Spitz said so far the collaborative has assisted with job placement for about 100 people.

Along with UMass Amherst, the service works with the Big Y supermarket chain, Enterprise Holdings, FedEx, TJX companies and Granite City Electrical Supply Co. The collaborative assists companies with staffing, diversity hiring, tax incentives and workforce development initiatives.

While WMEC represents three Western Massachusetts counties, there are similar organizations across the state as part of a larger initiative created by Riverside Community Care, a social service agency in Dedham. The collaboratives are funded by the state Department of Developmental Services and the Department of Mental Health.

Fear about hiring disabled

Spitz said people can be fearful and sometimes uneducated about hiring people with disabilities.

“The issue carries stigma and the job developers still hear comments about ‘those people’ and ‘they can’t do this kind of work’ and ‘my staff wouldn’t know how to deal with people like that,’” Spitz said in an email.

She said she’s considering an educational awareness campaign and possibly a public awareness campaign where local businesses can place a sticker in their front window to signify they are on-board with hiring people with disabilities.

She said across the disability spectrum, there are a variety of qualified job candidates. And it’s a large, untapped labor pool, she said.

Some have bachelor’s and master’s degrees, while others seek entry-level positions.

Kelly, of Star Light, said she communicates honestly with employers about barriers they may face with a potential job candidate hired from Star Light. But she also tries to educate them.

And when WMEC notifies her of a job opportunities, she looks into a person’s background, work history, age and skill set to find the best match from Star Light.

But Spitz said people like White are out there and eager to work — whether it be packaging at FedEx or cleaning cars for Enterprise.

“There are so many qualified people out there that can contribute so much to a work place,” Spitz said.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at moc.tenettezagnull@htrowhsac.

 

Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition and Tradewinds Honor Friendly’s of Sturbridge at the Statehouse in Boston

Photo: Left to right; Tradewinds Program Manager Brittany Clark, Friendly’s of Sturbridge Manager Pam Sampson, Tradewinds Employment Coordinator Dawn Sanchez, Friendly’s Employee and Tradewinds Member Mike Proulx and State Representative Peter Durant.

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, Friendly’s of Sturbridge was recognized and honored for their excellence in their diversity practices for providing gainful employment to individuals with mental illness with the support of Department of Mental Health (DMH) funded Clubhouse rehabilitation and recovery centers. Massachusetts State Representative Peter Durant presented an award, at the Statehouse in Boston, to Manager, Pamela Sampson, who received the award on behalf of Friendly’s of Sturbridge. The event, organized by the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition (MCC), recognized twenty-seven companies.  The event was held to both honor the companies who have created a diverse and welcoming workforce while also working to lessen the stigma of mental illness, often experienced by those with psychiatric conditions when seeking employment.  Those employed by the companies honored at the statehouse are amongst 4,000 Massachusetts Clubhouse members who gained employment with support this past year.

Friendly’s Manager, Pamela Sampson spoke at the event at the Statehouse. Here is a brief snapshot of what she spoke of on Tuesday. “Let me begin by saying my experience with Tradewinds has been wonderful. I was a little bit skeptical when first approached but knew that I would be doing a good thing to help someone learn a job skill and become a productive working in the job force.  Tradewinds Member, Mike P started with Sturbridge Friendly’s just about 9 months ago in a Transitional employment position and in that time I watched him change. Change for the better! He was a shy, unsure, introverted young man. But over these 9 months he learned several skills within our restaurant.  He is a changed young man!! He is no longer a shy person. He comes in with a big smile and a skip in his step and eager to get the job done!!! He is appreciated by all coworkers.  Our experience has been so rewarding that we have just hired two more transitional employees, Jeremy and Terri! Jeremy is learning the day shift service assistant position and Terri is learning the day shift Greeter position.”

Massachusetts Clubhouse centers serve over 7,000 Massachusetts residents, as they work to re-gain their footing, gain employment, complete their education, build relationships, and develop leadership skills towards living successfully in the community with support. “Countering the myths about people with psychiatric conditions, there are hundreds of companies in Massachusetts who are choosing to look past disability and see ability and opportunity as they employ members of Massachusetts Clubhouses,” said Reva Stein, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition (MCC). “Having a job not only brings in a much needed pay check, but serves to inspire and encourage people, recovering from often challenging conditions, that they too can achieve their dreams and goals.” Clubhouse rehabilitation centers across the state, that have achieved quality accreditation, honored the companies during the Celebration Event.  Legislators presented awards to the local companies with the help of the DMH Commissioner Joan Mikula. Each honoree had been identified by their local Clubhouse as a company that has built a welcoming and inclusive workforce.

 

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Thank You to everyone who helped to make this year’s Employer Recognition & Awards Breakfast a great success

We would like to thank everyone who helped to make this year’s event a great success.

Congratulations to all of our award winners:

2016 Employer of the Year: Specialty Bolt & Screw, Inc.

2016 Rookie Employer Award: Friendly’s of the Westfield Shops

2016 Armand Tourangeau Volunteer of the Year: Cheryl Rumley

HRU’s event sponsorship committee members:  Amy Royal, Royal P.C., Daniel Flynn, United Bank, Kate Campiti, BusinessWest, Chet Wojcik, Alliance Medical Gas and Taryn Siciliano, HUB International. We’d also like to thank our event sponsors:

Gold Sponsors:

Media Sponsors:

Silver Sponsors:

Table Sponsors:

  • All States Materials Group
  • Commonwealth Packaging Corporation
  • Ernst Financial Group
  • Hanover Insurance Group
  • MassMutual Financial Group
  • Tommy Car Auto Group

Contributing Sponsors:

  • Alliance Medical Gas
  • Associated Building Wreckers
  • BNY Mellon Wealth Management
  • Comcast
  • CRA Telecom
  • Freedom Credit Union
  • Parker Ceiling
  • PSI 91
  • Steve Erickson
  • TJD Consulting, Inc.
  • W. B. Mason
  • Whittlesey & Hadley, P.C.
  • Williams Distributing

Special thanks goes out to HRU’s event sponsorship committee members:  Amy Royal, Royal P.C., Daniel Flynn, United Bank, Kate Campiti, BusinessWest, Chet Wojcik, Alliance Medical Gas and Taryn Siciliano, HUB International and to all of our employer partners, friends, volunteers, members and staff for all of your support!

Lighthouse holds Community fair

A good turnout of members enjoyed refreshments and received information from  MRC, NAMI, CHD, Catholic Charities, and Safelink on the services that they provide.

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chrys-at-sign-in-table-lh catholic-charites-lh

john-the-emcee-lh johnny-m-lh enrique-from-mrc-lh

 

 

Donna Sorensen receives the Citizen of the Year Award from NAMI Berkshire County

 

Donna Sorensen is this year’s recipient. Her career started at Elm House and subsequently at other Brien center programs. Currently Donna’s involvement at the local clubhouse, Berkshire Pathways, allows her to work with members on, as she says “what they can do instead of what they can’t do”. Her positive thinking and patience has impacted many individuals throughout her career. She sincerely cares about the members at Berkshire Pathways and treats them as equals. She is a staunch advocate for all affected by mental illness. She truly embodies all that clubhouses stand for: the idea that everyone continues to grow and that someone’s mental illness is not who they are. They are individuals who can overcome any barrier and accomplish whatever they want. Berkshire Pathways is lucky to have her.

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Berkshire Pathways participates in “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes”

 

Berkshire Pathways participated in the annual “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event in Pittsfield. The program raised over $600 for the cause and had 8 people participate in the walk.

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Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition and Lighthouse, a Program of Human Resources Unlimited, Inc., Honor Price Rite, Boston Road, Springfield, MA at the Statehouse in Boston

LH- MCCOn Tuesday, March 29, 2016, Price Rite was one of 28 companies honored at the Statehouse in Boston for choosing to diversify their workforce by employing residents of the Commonwealth, who have mental illness, with the support of Clubhouse employment and recovery centers, funded by the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

The event, organized by the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition (MCC), a non-profit organization, took place in the Great Hall.   Alda Coelho from State Representative Angelo Puppolo’s office presented the award to Price Rite, Boston Road, Springfield for being an excellent employer.  Price Rite has partnered with Lighthouse for over 4 years and currently employs 5 clubhouse members and also reaches out to Lighthouse regularly when the store has a need for additional staff.  The management of Price Rite have said that Lighthouse provides quality, dedicated employees and that clubhouse staff are a pleasure to work with, responding quickly with good candidates to fill their staffing needs.

Lighthouse, a program of Human Resources Unlimited, Inc., is providing support to over 260 members annually as they work to re-gain their footing and gain employment, complete their education and live successfully in the community with support.

Employers were selected for recognition because they have done an exceptional job in creating a welcoming and diverse workforce.  DMH funded Clubhouses serve over 7,000 residents of the Commonwealth annually, providing services designed to help “members” all of whom have mental illness, live successfully in the community, gaining a welcoming, productive place to come to during the day, and assistance in gaining employment, an education, housing, dual recovery, peer and wellness supports.

Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition and Star Light Center, a Program of Human Resources Unlimited, Inc., Honor The Department of Mental Health-Northampton Area Office at the Statehouse in Boston

Mcc SL

On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, The Department of Mental Health-Northampton Area Office was one of 28 companies honored at the Statehouse in Boston for choosing to diversify their workforce by employing residents of the Commonwealth, who have mental illness, with the support of Clubhouse employment and recovery centers, funded by the Department of Mental Health (DMH).

The event, organized by the Massachusetts Clubhouse Coalition (MCC), a non-profit organization, took place in the Great Hall.  State Representative Ellen Story presented the award to Carol Pacinella and The Department of Mental Health Northampton Area Office for their excellence as employers of clubhouse members.   DMH Northampton Area Office currently employs 2 clubhouse members as receptionists.  Their team has been very supportive and enthusiastic employers, and they truly understand the process of recovering from mental illness. Human Resources Unlimited, which operates Star Light Center, counts on business leaders like Ms. Pacinella and her team, to provide employment opportunities to those working on their recovery and are thankful for their leadership in helping so many on their journey.

Star Light Center, a service of Human Resources Unlimited, Inc., is providing support to over 200 members annually as they work to re-gain their footing and gain employment, complete their education and live successfully in the community with support.

Employers were selected for recognition because they have done an exceptional job in creating a welcoming and diverse workforce.  DMH funded Clubhouses serve over 7,000 residents of the Commonwealth annually, providing services designed to help “members” all of whom have mental illness, live successfully in the community, gaining a welcoming, productive place to come to during the day, and assistance in gaining employment, an education, housing, dual recovery, peer and wellness supports.