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Mentoring Day at Area Sam’s Club

Sam’s Club Niagara Falls, NY Celebrates “Disability Mentoring Day” 2013


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, 5535 Porter Road in Niagara Falls, under the direction of Marketing Manager Amy Benjamin, on Wednesday, October 23, they hosted individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities served 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, and produce, where they learned about job duties and responsibilities and 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 employees. By the end of the mentoring day, produce was stocked, pizzas were prepared in the café and in the bakery, numerous cupcakes were frosted, with cookies and pies packaged for the weekend shoppers. Attending were: Todd Aynelotte of North Tonawanda, Martin Rignall of Niagara Falls, John Schultz and Andrew Seitz of Lockport, and Heather Thomas of Ransomville.

“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 Amy Benjamin, marketing manager, 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 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 20%. 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. The NY Makes Work Pay program offers incentives to private sector businesses for hiring individuals with disabilities. Participating employers are compensated through reductions in federal and/or state income tax liability, and are rewarded with the knowledge that they have made a difference in someone’s life.

“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 Jim Mroczek, interim executive director at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.

Mroczek 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. 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. “Because We Are EQUAL to the Task” 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, the theme reflects the reality that people with disabilities have the education, training, experience and desire to be successful in the workplace.

“When I was growing up, many people doubted what I could do just because I was blind. But because I had people in my life who instilled in me an expectation of work and showed me opportunities to be successful, I completed college and became known for what I can do,” said Kathy Martinez, assistant secretary of labor for disability employment policy. “I urge all employers to benefit from the skills of workers with disabilities by giving them, including our returning veterans, a chance to show that they, too, are equal to the task.”

This year’s theme echoes the message of ODEP’s ongoing Campaign for Disability Employment to promote positive employment outcomes for people with disabilities and expand ideas about what youths with disabilities can do when they receive encouragement and support for their ambitions. Conducted in collaboration with business and disability organizations, the campaign emphasizes that, at work, it is what people can do that matters.


BACKGROUND on Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara

For nearly 60 years, Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, a United Way agency and Niagara County Chapter of NYSARC, has provided innovative and results-oriented supportive services to people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities of all ages and their families. We are dedicated to maximizing the quality of life for individuals with disabilities by providing them the resources to reach their greatest potential including training, employment, recreation (youth and adult), horticulture therapy, fine arts, technology, programming at Niagara University, service coordination for all ages and residential opportunities.


Hands-on learning at the Niagara Falls Sam’s Club.