Paving the way for disabled individuals

Chad Richards

The Employment First initiative (EFI) and the Bridges to Transition (BTT) program have paved the way for disabled individuals to seek and find employment within the state, with local help that has increased the success of these programs. These programs have already helped a local resident immensely.

The EFI was signed into effect by Ohio Gov. John Kasich in 2012 as a way to find and work on the skills and interests of disabled people who seek employment. Through the EFI, young people with developmental disabilities will learn about employment options. While they’re in school, they can begin to develop those skills so that they can join the workforce once they become adults. Every person has skills and interests, and it is through this initiative that many disabled Ohioans have learned and enhanced those skills and interests.

The BTT program is a Vocational Rehabilitation Public Private Partnership (VRP3) grant program funded by County Boards of Developmental Disabilities and coordinated by the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Agency. The goal of BTT is to expand career exploration and employment options for transition youth (ages 14-22) with developmental disabilities.

Fayette Progressive Industries (FPI) has been working for years to help raise the standard of living for disabled residents. Using these programs, FPI has placed many individuals with developmental disabilities into work sites. Through hard work, FPI helps to develop each individual so that they can find a desirable job.

The Employment First initiative has changed the life of Chad Richards. Richards, 23, son of Lee Ann and Jeff Cooper and a Washington C.H. resident, was hired on at Wal-Mart in Washington Court House in November of last year. He was hired after Betty Reisinger and others worked to help train him for his duties, going so far as to help him push carts in the snow.

“I push carts, process carry-outs, do mopping and also make propane exchanges,” Richards said. “I am in charge of making sure both sides of the store have carts and whether there’s snow, rain, or sunshine, I will be out there pushing.”

Richards learned the skills needed to perform his job from various workshop activities and work from job counselors and coaches. After volunteering for a while, he wanted to earn a paycheck and began to work on the skills required to join the workforce. He joined the workshop at FPI and worked through the summers developing these skills. Once he began to learn how to do these jobs, Fayette Progressive Industries helped Richards look for a position he could fill at a local business. One huge help is that not only do the programs offered by FPI help to build physical skills, it also works on social skills and networking.

“I really want to thank my mom and dad for being so supportive as I grew up,” Richards said. “I also want to thank Betty Reisinger and Aaron Shafer, my counselor, for helping me learn what I needed to do to join the workforce. I really enjoy earning my own paycheck. I also want to thank Wal-Mart for giving me this opportunity to join the team and let me work as hard as I do.”

After working for just a few months, Richards earned the “Associate of the Month” award from Wal-Mart in January for his hard work and efforts. Now that he has won this award and continues to receive praise, he has begun to think about the future, and he hopes to be working as a maintenance associate.

“Overall Chad is an excellent worker with a great personality who serves as an example for the rest of the others with disabilities,” Reisinger said. “We really want employers to realize these individuals all possess skills, determination and ethics that they are looking for. All they need is a bit of guidance and some practice and they can become the best employees at any business.”

This story is the first in a series that will showcase the success stories of individuals within the county with disabilities who have faced adversity and grown through the process to become more independent adults. For more information about the programs described here, contact Fayette Progressive Industries at (740) 335-7453.