Disability Employment Awareness Highlighted During October
While other ideals may be more publically celebrated during the month of October, Ulster-Greene ARC is very proud to put the emphasis on a topic closely aligned to our mission… National Disability Employment Awareness Month!
“Our mission at Ulster-Greene ARC is to provide opportunities for people and support them in it. We recognize as one organization that we cannot do it alone, and for this we appreciate our partnerships with our elected officials who actively support this and other advocacy organizations to get the word out about the value of a diverse workforce,” states John McHugh, Executive Director.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) got its start back in 1945 when the United States Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October as “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week”. Shortly thereafter, the word “physically” was removed from the designation to include all types of disabilities and acknowledge the attributes of all those affected by a challenge. In 1988, Congress again changed the name to its current moniker “National Disability Employment Awareness Month” and extended the commitment to the full month.
This year, Field Goods, a budding, farm to table, local food and produce delivery service, based in Athens, received a dual honor. The Greene County employer was bestowed the inaugural Employer of the Year Award from Ulster-Greene ARC back in April at the Annual Humanitarian Awards Dinner and was recently acknowledged by the Capital Region Employment Alliance.
“We are deeply honored by receiving this award recognizing our employing valued workers with disabilities,” said Field Goods founder and President Donna Williams. “I built Field Goods on the belief in the power of small business and work to change lives, and we are seeing that happen. Our partnership with ARC has been so important in growing our business.”
Lynn Slofkin, Ulster Greene ARC Job Developer, nominated Field Goods for both awards based on Donna’s dedication towards matching employees with jobs that capitalize on their interests and abilities.
“Donna will make accommodations in an employee’s schedule based on the availability of transportation and will offer individualized supplemental assistance to provide workers the utmost opportunity to develop their job skills and succeed in the position,” acknowledges Lynn.
Ulster County based employers acknowledged for their role in hiring a diverse workforce and receiving a NDEAM Award from the Mid-Hudson Employment Alliance were Millens Metal Recycling in Kingston, Ollie’s Bargain Outlet in Kingston, ShopRite of Kingston, ShopRite of Ellenville and Ten Broeck Commons in Lake Katrine, which received one of only two Regional Awards.
The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities’ (OPWDD) Works For Me Awards is all about promoting the “Employment First” platform in hiring people affected specifically by an intellectual or other form of developmental disability. It is exciting to acknowledge Advantage Sales & Marketing, a sampling and promotions enterprise, who employs people to work within Sam’s Club in Kingston, won the First Runner-Up Award for the Medium Business Category out of all other employers state-wide.
As we always say at Ulster-Greene ARC, “When opportunities are not readily available… You have to create them”!
This was exactly the case when Ulster-Greene ARC began discussions with Just-A-Buck, a dollar store franchising corporation. Now, some eighteen months later, it is awe-inspiring to see the newly opened Just-A-Buck store in New Paltz getting rave reviews for not only their deeply discounted merchandise, but their hiring practices.
“The support and encouragement we have received from the community is tremendous. It’s truly a testament to our mission of hiring a locally sourced, diverse workforce. Thanks to Ulster-Greene ARC, we have taken a storefront that was vacant for a long time, gave it new life and provided jobs for sixteen people. We are excited to be a part of the thriving New Paltz community and hope that our neighbors, if they have yet to do so, will shop our store and discover the real value of a dollar,” notes Matt Heupler, Store Manager of Just-A-Buck.
Also acknowledged during the month of October, New York State Industry for the Disabled (NYSID) sponsors the annual William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Awards. This year, Ulster-Greene ARC was proud to nominate Jean Mary Shields for this wonderful honor. (Click photo at left to be taken to NYSID's 2014 William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Award Yearbook)
At the awards ceremony, Tom Occhiogrosso, Commodities Sales Specialist acknowledged, “Jean Mary, you are an inspiration to us all. The work that you do in assembling drug test kits is truly helping others in their drug rehabilitation. Your outstanding performance and attention to detail inspires others to do the same.”
Ulster-Greene ARC is proud to partner with over 100 employers across Ulster, Greene and Dutchess Counties. We encourage others to take a moment and reflect on the benefit that can be received by hiring this amazingly talented, capable, and eager to work segment of the workforce.
Celebrating the Season at Brookside School
Brookside School holds its annual Fall Festival with the support of volunteers and community members
Autumn is a glorious time of year in the Northeast. Pleasant temperatures, picturesque foliage, and an abundance of apples and other harvested bounties provide the perfect backdrop for the annual Fall Festival held at Brookside School.
“We love to make learning fun,” states Marcene Basch-Johnson, Director of Educational Services at Brookside School. “Our Fall Festival is just one way that we can bring community members together and teach the students in a very interactive way.
The Fall Festival features an experience in turning apples into apple cider, a meet-up with miniature donkeys and a few rounds of pumpkin bowling.
About six or seven years ago, Bill McKenna, a member of the Town Board in Woodstock, and Donald Allen, City of Kingston Deputy Fire Chief, were asked by a friend if they would bring their cider press to Brookside School to teach the students how to make apple cider. The rest is history. Every year since, they each take a day off from their “real jobs” to volunteer at Brookside’s Fall Festival, cider press in tow and the bed of their pick-up truck full with apples thanks to Mike Moriello, owner of Apple Hill Farms in New Paltz.
“We enjoy it. The process of making cider hasn’t changed in years and we love to come to Brookside and demonstrate it for the kids,” says Bill.
The next stop at the Fall Festival is to see the miniature donkeys thanks to Little Brays of Sunshine, a unique group of volunteers based in Ulster Park who have a small herd of seven miniature donkeys, three of which came to Brookside School. The students have the opportunity to pet the donkeys, brush their coat and simply get some one-on-one time with these lovable animals.
“They are donkey ambassadors,” says Steve Stiert, the organizer of Little Brays of Sunshine. “A donkey’s natural demeanor is very calm and gentle, yet they are often very misunderstood animals. I am frequently asked if they will kick or bite. That type of behavior is very uncharacteristic and so our group loves the chance to get out into the community and introduce donkeys to others. Some people call it ‘donkey therapy’, but we just consider them wonderful animals and an excellent way to get people away from technology and outside in the fresh air.”
Along with Steve, there are eight other volunteer members in the group including Larry Futrell, Nick Destefano and Rachele Levy who joined Steve at Brookside’s Fall Festival.
To cap off the activities the students participated in Pumpkin Bowling. A seasonally inspired spin on regular bowling, students each line up at the top of the hill behind the school, grab a pumpkin and roll it down the slope towards the bowling pins. Thanks to Davenport Farms, who offered a fantastic discount on the pumpkins, there were plenty of orange colored “bowling balls” to go around.
This year, NYSARC, Inc. proudly celebrates its 65th Anniversary, which has been a journey of advocacy and support for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities and their families throughout New York.
As the Ulster and Greene Counties Chapter of NYSARC, Inc., we were proud to help support and rally publicity for this momentus milestone.
Begining on Monday, July 7th at the Walkway Over the Hudson and ending on Friday, July 10th, at the stairs to the Capitol in Albany, Ulster-Greene ARC hosted and took part in three different celebrations that brought attention to the mission of NYSARC and it's local county chapters.
On Monday, July 7th, Ulster-Greene ARC joined with Dutchess ARC, Orange AHRC and SullivanArc at the Walkway Over the Walkway Over the Hudson. With the support of Ulster County Executive Mike Hein, the four chapters attached their county's tassel to the NYSARC flag and spoke a little about value of the NYSARC mission.
On Tuesday, July 8th, Ulster-Greene ARC met up with sister chapter (COARC) at the Rip Van Winkle Bridge in Catskill. Much like the event at the walkway, we were grateful to have the participation of Tracy Magee from New York State Assemblyman Peter Lopez's office and Assemblywoman Didi Barrett.
On Friday, July 11th, a small group from Ulster-Greene ARC traveled to Albany to rally with other chapters of NYSARC from across New York State. Not only was it a gorgeous day, but more than 1,000 people participated in a walk from the Corning Preserve to the steps of the Capitol building. Local New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, 46th Senate District, took time to speak at the event and acknowledge the immense value that NYSARC and it's county chapters offer.
Daily Freeman YouTube Videos of Walkway Over the Hudson Event
Lance Wheeler Video of Rip Van Winkle Event
See the Daily Freeman's photo gallery of Walkway Over the Hudson Event, please click on the link below.
Check out the articles published in the Daily Mail and Register Star Newspapers
It is a person’s abilities, experiences, knowledge and personality that employers look at, right? This is not always the case. In our fast-paced, results-driven society, companies tend to place a focus on the disability as it is easier to hire someone who can immediately do the physical tasks of the job, thus yielding the quickest results. Unfortunately for these companies, what they are failing to recognize is that sometimes those who need a little additional training mature into the most valuable and loyal employees.
Try A Sample
Vincent has been working at Sam’s Club in Kingston for more than 10 years. His job is to greet customers and entice them to try some of the highlighted products of the day. While he enjoys chatting with shoppers, handing out tasters and cashing his well-earned paycheck, after eight years on the job he was faced with an obstacle. In 2009, Vincent was laid off and subsequently rehired with a few changes. Advantage Sales & Marketing was contracted to manage all the “samplers” at Sam’s Club. As a result, Vincent had to learn to use a computer, clock in and out online, and provide a review of his day. For many people, this may seem like a simple hurdle, but when you don’t have a computer… or the Internet… learning to acclimate to the new job requirements becomes much more dramatic.
“Vincent is great! He knows his job inside and out. While there was a time when he needed extra help to learn some of the computer requirements, you would never know now,” says Roseann Shivers, Club Supervisor.
“We all encounter hurdles in life. It’s important to remember this when you are working with people. Everyone should have the chance to show their worth and what they are able to do. When I have vacancies, I look to agencies like Ulster-Greene ARC to help fill them”.
It is thanks to supervisors like Roseann and companies such as Advantage Sales & Marketing who see the value in a diversified workforce. They are not alone. Over the years, Ulster-Greene ARC has worked with more than a hundred businesses within Ulster, Greene, Dutchess, Sullivan and Orange Counties. This year Advantage Sales & Marketing, Shop Rite of New Paltz, James’ General Store in Napanoch and Sodexo at SUNY New Paltz, were recognized as Local Employers of Merit at the Mid Hudson Employment Alliance’s NDEAM Awards Event for their efforts in maintaining a diverse workforce.
So What do You Think?
“During the first month, I was not sure if it was going to work out,” says James Dolaway, owner of James’ General Store (above left with Brittany). “But it did. You just have to trust in the process”.
In 2008, James was chatting with Gwen Perry, one of his regulars, who happens to be a Senior Job Developer for Ulster-Greene ARC. He said that he needed someone to open the store in the mornings and she told him that we have the girl for you.
“I love my job. It was hard at first, but now I do everything at the store,” adds Brittany, James’ self-proclaimed best worker who will not only open the store in the mornings, but close it in the evenings as well.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to work. We need to ignite other employers to take a chance. Ulster-Greene ARC really is like a recruitment agency. They have quality applicants,” affirms James.Pictured above are James & Brittany from James’ General Store in Napanoch
“It Feels Good”
While there are many people interested in gaining employment within the greater community, there are an equally large number of folks who prefer the work they have been doing for years. Since 1970, Ulster-Greene ARC’s Pilot Industries has taken on this role, partnering with companies to secure packaging and assembly subcontracted work. One of these vendors is New York State Industries for the Disabled’s (NYSID) Preferred Source Solutions. Through NYSID, the employees at Pilot Industries in Ellenville package drug test kits, which are sold to a variety of courts and organizations throughout New York State. Every year, NYSID acknowledges workers through their William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Awards Program, who uphold the ideals of Positivity, Accomplishment, Teamwork, Integrity and more. This year, our very own Hiram was bestowed this honor.
Hiram has experienced such personal growth as a result of his job. A man of few words, Hiram’s smile lights up a room and within the past year has begun to blossom. With consistent coaching at work and a team of people who collaboratively support him, Hiram now asks for more work instead of sitting idle while waiting to be given additional supplies, independently purchases his break time snack and has even developed a friendship with a co-worker, who he helps by opening her drink as she is unable to do so herself.
When Hiram began packaging drug test kits, he could only label 1,000 bags during this work shift. Now he can label 2,500!
“It feels good.”
This is Hiram’s simple yet poignant response when asked why he likes his job. When questioned about what he does with his paycheck, he quietly talks about going out to dinner on Friday nights… Chinese food… and egg noodles.
To meet the people who earn a paycheck, because someone looked past their disability, is inspiring.
The fulfillment in hearing their stories, the trials they overcame and the reality of their day-to-day hurdles reminds us that we are all the same; hoping that someone will give us a chance to prove we are worth the words “you’re hired”.
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