As part of their continuing commitment to the community, Sam’s Clubs across the country hosted “Disability Mentoring Days” in celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. At Club #6406, 1580 Military Road in Niagara Falls, under the direction of Member Services Assistant Manager Jeff Dixon, on Wednesday, October 28, they hosted individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities supported by Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. These individuals participate in vocational training programs at the agency preparing them for community-based employment. At the Sam’s Club on Wednesday, they shadowed employees in the bakery, café, front greeter, electronics, and produce, where they learned about job duties and responsibilities, as well as the type of education and/or experience needed to apply for these and similar jobs at area businesses. The participants went straight to work under the caring guidance of various Sam’s Club associates. Attending were: Brian McDonald, Jacob Farnham, James Van Auken, and Colleen Hildebrant.
“Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club serve as primary sponsors for National Disability Mentoring Day, hosting their own mentoring programs. Participants with disabilities have been afforded the chance to explore their career field of interest, increasing the visibility of people with disabilities in the workforce and developing mentor-mentee relationships,” stated Jeff Dixon, Member Services Assistant Manager and mentor liaison, Sam’s Club #6406.
Through area employers nearly 300 people receive a paycheck and spend it locally with supports provided by Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. These individuals work in community-based positions with the assistance of job coaches in the supported employment/ticket to work programs; provide on-site environmental services to the entire Niagara Falls airbase and other area businesses, as well as learn about cafeteria services in the Lockport and Niagara Falls Cafes. Individuals also earn a paycheck based on their production levels in-house while providing assembly, inspection, mailing and production work for area businesses. Moving into community-based employment is always the goal of the vocational training programs.
This month is a great time to educate the business community about the social and financial benefits of employing people with disabilities. The national average of unemployment of people with disabilities is currently 80%. In New York State it is estimated that 70% of working-age people with disabilities are not employed. Employment is not only beneficial to individuals with disabilities but it is also good for businesses.
“One of the major challenges to the productive employment of qualified people with disabilities is overcoming the stereotypes and attitudes about what people can and cannot do. Sam’s Club has been leading the way in New York State since the 70’s to educate their own employees and the business community that by working together we are able to increase the workplace demand for people with disabilities.” reflected Kellie Spychalski, executive director for Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.
Spychalski added, “On behalf of our individuals, I want to acknowledge the many types of manufacturing, scientific and assembly businesses, the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, as well as the numerous small businesses, restaurants, hotels, and supermarkets for their continued support of our vocational programs. By allowing us to be your business resource, you put people to work creating a positive future for those employees. These companies understand that a strong workforce is one inclusive of the skills and talents of all individuals, including individuals with disabilities. We encourage any business interested in providing shadow experiences and/or employment to contact us. It is a win-win for everyone.”
BACKGROUND on National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)
Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities. “My Disability is One Part of Who I Am.” is the theme of this year’s National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Chosen by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.
“This year’s theme encapsulates the important message that people with disabilities are just that — people,” said Jennifer Sheehy, acting assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy, United States Department of Labor. “And like all people, we are the sum of many parts, including our work experiences. Disability is an important perspective we bring to the table, but, of course, it’s not the only one.”
For more information about NDEAM, visit www.dol.gov/odep/ and select “National Disability Employment Awareness Month” from the drop-down menu. To view the “Who I Am” PSA, visit www.whatcanyoudocampaign.org