Local organization can help businesses looking for employees

Local organization can help businesses looking for employees

Image Credit: Lori Feeney

As businesses face staff shortages, one local organization may have the answer. Advocates for Success, an offshoot of the Tuscarawas Board of Developmental Disabilities, has been training people with disabilities for job placement in a variety of positions.

The AFS vocational program partners with local employers to place individuals in jobs or to pitch in anytime a few extra hands are needed.

"All of the people in our program are 18 or over and have graduated from school," said Kim Chaney, director of services. "Now they’re exploring employment and independent living and building relationships. They are eager to work and eager to learn on the job."

Christy Bennet, director of community employment, agreed. “The people in our program are much more willing than the average person to learn and work hard. They take great pride in their work.”

“The folks we serve want to have jobs in the community and earn a paycheck,” Chaney said. "The same things we desire for our lives are the things they want. They want to move out and have their own apartments or houses or get married, so we’re always looking for new avenues to help them do that. We take a small group with a job coach or other leader and go to a job site for a few hours to do whatever work needs done, then we, as an agency, pay them minimum wage for the hours they are on the job site working and learning."

Founded in 2016 by Nancy Hunter, CEO, and Chaney, both of whom came from TuscBDD, the organization received state certification in January 2017.

“Our goal was just to be able to provide better services to individuals in Tuscarawas County,” Chaney said. “We’re here to help them either meet or exceed their goals for life, whatever they may be, and get them one step closer to the future they want.”

AFS has worked with a number of local employers including Marshall’s, Jo-Ann Fabric and others. “We’ve really been blessed with the partners we have,” Chaney said. “Dutch Valley is a huge partner for us. We have currently six individuals employed there, building job skills and gaining confidence.”

According to Chaney, AFS started with five people participating in the program in 2017. “Today, we serve around 50.”

The 50 includes services outside of the vocational program. AFS also teaches homemaker personal care, teaching participants how to maintain their homes and get involved in the community.

“We also offer group employment,” Chaney said, explaining that AFS has several janitorial crews who clean local businesses.

What AFS teaches

The curriculum at AFS is designed to deliver a well-rounded approach to independent living. Christy Bennet is a relative newcomer to the organization who works as a job coach but also works on building employer partnerships and is developing some new curriculum courses.

Bennet is leading a new computer class, teaching participants typing, internet skills, email and safety on the internet. She also will lead a health class.

“It’s important for our individuals to understand their bodies and the changes that happen over time,” Bennet said. “Like all of us, they need to know how to listen to their bodies and know when something is wrong and how to practice good nutrition and exercise.”

Basic first aid and CPR will be included in the new health class.

Participants are currently learning conga drumming in a class led by Claymont band director Jim Howell and hope to hold a show in November.

Fun Fridays

“It’s important to have a social piece to our day because relationships are important to everyone,” Chaney said.

Fun Fridays are a crucial piece of the overall program. Chaney said the group has visited zoos, gone swimming, seen movies, had picnics, taken hikes, held dances and more. This month they will visit a corn maze for Halloween.

Individuals can be connected to AFS through the TuscBDD. Employers who want to participate should call Chaney at 330-663-1617 or Hunter at 330-340-4129 if they are seeking services for themselves or a loved one.

“We can come in and perform any job task they need help with,” Chaney said.