Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Kind of Customized Employment

A new kind of customized employment that proves once again that a perfect job match is a really, really good thing. It’s amazing what can happen when we stop trying to make people (or dogs) be something that they are not. If you ever doubted that discovering talent is the key, watch this video.

Thank you for all the times YOU have looked really hard to find the one thing that someone CAN and WANTS to do, given up your own preconceived notions of what they should do, and worked hard to make THEIR DREAM a reality.

Happy New Year!

Chris

Christina Brandt
Chief Executive Officer

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Monday, December 21, 2009

As the end of the year draws close, we want to wish you a wonderful holiday season. AtWork! is so grateful for the wonderful people with disabilities that we get to work with everyday, grateful for the caring and committed individuals who create supportive circles of friendship around each person we serve, and for the community leaders and donors who have provided us with so many resources. Our mission is to help people with disabilities be productive, integrated and contributing members of their communities. Our purpose is to help people with disabilities learn marketable skills, find and keep good jobs in the community, and earn wages and benefits that help them escape poverty. Without you and your support his would not be possible. If you've not yet completed your year end giving, we ask you to consider making a gift to AtWork! Your gift will have lasting impact on the quality of life for a person with disabilities. Thank you for being there for all of us.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

INVEST IN THEIR FUTURE - FUND TRANSITION SERVICES FOR HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS MOVING FROM SCHOOL TO WORK

Employment services for high school students with developmental disabilities help support young adults gain and maintain employment after graduation from high school. Job support needs are determined individually, and can vary significantly from person to person. The amount, duration, and intensity fluctuate depending on the needs of the person, the job tasks, and the work environment. Once employed, persons with developmental disabilities typically need support from trained job coaches for a number of reasons that may include a change in the workplace or business, a change in supervisors or co-workers, the addition of new tasks, and most commonly, communicating with the employer.

The funding spent to assist entry into jobs and careers for these graduating students provides a return on Washington State’s special education investment. Long term follow-along support is essential for successful employment – for the individual, as well as the employer.

• Please support the Division of Developmental Disabilities Budget Decision Package for the 2010 Supplemental Budget, and provide funding to support the 343 students graduating during this Biennium who are on a waiver. $1.8 M. ($764,000 GFS using the enhanced federal match rate).
• Please fund the remaining 1, 010 graduates by allocating additional waiver slots to provide these vital services. For every dollar spent on waiver services, the State receives a Federal dollar match. This creates a win for the State, and a win for individuals with developmental disabilities to capitalize on their education and find meaningful community employment. $5.2 M. ($2.2 M GFS using the enhanced federal match rate ).

Visit the Community Employment Alliance website to learn more about 2010 Washington State Legislative issues.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

AtWork! Advocate Looked Around and Saw Opportunity

In February Bob Strayhan, AtWork! Board Chair, and his wife Alta, moved into the Washington Square condominium complex in downtown Bellevue. He realized there might be opportunity for an AtWork! client to join the maintenance staff and talked with management about employing a person with a disability. They were open to the idea and worked with AtWork! staff to structure a position.

Haden interviewed in July for the position of Custodian. He had previous experience working in the AtWork! building maintenance enclave before that business was discontinued last summer. He was offered the position at Washington Square and began work on July 24th earning $11 per hour. He is on a work schedule of three six hour days per week. AtWork! employment consultant Rick Anderson worked closely with Haden during the interview process and his first three days of work coordinating with the Maintenance Supervisor, Sean Schwendler, his management staff, and the three other employed custodians. A strong circle of support has been developed with the employer and Haden’s parents to ensure success and progress during the regular 90 day new hire probationary period. After two weeks of employment Rick was able to fade from hands on job coaching to only a brief check-in with Haden and staff once a week.

Sean is very pleased with Haden’s performance and says he just checks in periodically during his shift via walkie-talkie. He has been given new job tasks in addition to his primary duty of dusting and polishing metal work on 52 floors in two towers. He has readily picked up window washing, vacuuming, and cheerfully takes on odd jobs as they come up, like outside landscape maintenance. He has learned to ride Metro to and from work and his home in Kenmore. Most of all, Haden enjoys his work, enjoys being independent and valued and proud of his accomplishment.

Thanks to Bob Strayhan, who looked around, saw opportunity and brought the parties together, another person with disabilities has found his place in the community as a tax payer, working and earning a pay check. Do you have an idea about an opportunity? Do you have a connection or contact who might be able to help the next person with a disability find that right fit? Comment on this blog, or send us an email. We’d like to hear from you.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

MAINTAIN SUPPORTED EMPLOYMENT SERVICES FOR "STATE ONLY" FUNDED ADULTS WITH DISABILITIES

Washington State has one of the most successful and cost-effective supported employment programs in the nation. As an example, King County delivers on average almost $2 in wages for every $1 spent on individual employment programs. People with developmental and other disabilities rely on supported employment services for the training, guidance and follow-along support they need to stay employed.

Employers have been promised the sustained delivery of these services as a critical component of hiring decisions. Without ongoing job supports, an important trust held with community employers is broken.

Future new hires will be in jeopardy. Many people with disabilities have been employed at long-term jobs because of the supports they receive funded by State only dollars. These people have done everything right—followed the school to work transition model and become successful working adults through supported employment. Now, because they are not on the Federal waiver and its guarantee of funding, they are in jeopardy of losing the very supports that have led to their long-term successful employment.

In support of people with developmental disabilities gainfully employed, but limited to "State only" dollars, we ask our Washington State Legislators to:
· Please safeguard supported employment services for those who do not qualify for Federal waivers.
· Please allow for the continued process of moving additional people to the waiver.

To learn more visit the website of the Community Employment Alliance.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

More Stories of Success “By The Numbers”

Think back on all those stories…courageous family members who supported and encouraged their loved ones to leave the sheltered workshop and take those first small steps to a community job…talented people with disabilities who learned about their own talents and interests and began to dream a new dream.

In Fiscal Year 2009 AtWork! staff conducted 367 tours of businesses and potential job sites; the people we serve encountered new environments, discovered their interests, and built experiences that promote true choice.

AtWork!’s commercial enterprises held their own during a tough year for many small businesses. Recycling expanded to e-cycle and scrape metal, mitigating the impact of a dramatically depressed commodities market. Landscaping hauled more debris from King County Storm Drainage Ponds than any previous year and the shop’s high quality, efficient, on-time delivery of products minimized financial losses.

In Fiscal Year 2009 people with disabilities working in AtWork!’s social enterprises earned over $250,000. AtWork! finished the year with a general fund operating profit of $12,720, a testimony to quality service, strong supporters, and solid management.

Teamwork, perseverance, dedication, going the extra-mile for the cause… these are just words that don’t do enough to describe you…a catalyst for changing the face of employment in 2009. Thank you hardworking staff (staff turnover decreased to only 17% in 2009), caring donors and supporters (351 individuals contributed in 2009, including many parents and family members), an involved and committed board (we passed 5 separate audits and compliance reviews with flying colors), customers, employers, funders…all of you who care about equality in employment for people with disabilities. Whether you see it “by the numbers” or in the happy faces of the people we serve…2009 was a very good year.

To read inspiring stories of progress, acceptance and inclusion visit our website.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Please help us help those who have been denied access for too long!

AtWork! helps adults with disabilities learn marketable skills, find and keep good jobs in the community, and earn wages and benefits that help them escape poverty. Through assessment of skills, talents, and barriers; job placement in the community; on-the-job precision teaching and job coaching, we find unique opportunities for alliances between employers and a person with a disability. The business need is satisfied and the employee is contributing and feels valued; a life changing experience.

In Fiscal Year 2009 AtWork! placed 20 people in community jobs, great results given the overall unemployment rate. Clients working in community jobs earned over $351,000 at an average hourly wage of $9.58. Ninety people with complex support needs discovered new talents and learned new skills by volunteering in their community. Through 367 tours of businesses and potential job sites; clients encountered new environments, discovered their interests, and built experiences that promote true choice.

Research has shown that 80% of students with disabilities who transition out of school without a job in place will fail to achieve integrated employment as an adult. People with disabilities who don’t have a stable system for long term support in place are less likely to get and retain a job. Funding is needed to help promising students and individuals discovering their pathway to employment as well as those who are employed, be successful in securing and keeping a job.

At this time of year we are grateful for friends and family and think about others and ways we can help. If you are a person who supports people with disabilities, who advocates for full integration by those who have been denied access for so long, please consider giving your financial support to AtWork! Help us to help promising students and individuals discovering their pathway to employment. Help us to help those who are employed, those who are looking for a job, those who are walking their pathway to that job in the community…..help us to help them be successful.

Make your secure online donation today and thank you for caring.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Stories of Success “By The Numbers”

All year we’ve shared stories of success in our blog, in our newsletters and online newsletters, on our website; the awe inspiring progress made on individual pathways to a good job, a good life, acceptance, and community inclusion. It’s the end of our fiscal year and time to tell the story “by the numbers.”

In Fiscal Year 2009 (October 2008 thru September 2009) AtWork! placed 20 people in community jobs…the same number placed in 2008; great results given that the unemployment rate was 9+% in 2009.

Some people we serve are on a fast track to a job…we do an intake, assessment of skills and interests, a couple of job tours, a work trial…and then we make a good job match with an eager employer…all in the matter of a few months.

In Fiscal Year 2009 people supported by AtWork! working in community jobs earned over $351,000 at an average hourly wage of $9.58.

Some are on a longer pathway to that perfect job…sometimes the progress is very slow…finally after 30 years you leave the confines of a state institution. Years of segregation, low expectations, isolation…a life devoid of ordinary experiences takes you on a different pathway….for many months we work together to build confidence, to discover your unique talents and interests, to see beyond your institutional behaviors, to hear your communication without words….until finally you are feeling valued for the first time in your life….you are a volunteer at a food bank…you can do this and you have purpose.

In Fiscal Year 2009 90 people with complex support needs discovered new talents and learned new skills by volunteering in their community.

To read inspiring stories of progress, acceptance and inclusion visit our website.

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