Clark County has been chosen as one of six sites in Ohio to develop pilot programs that will help people with developmental disabilities move from jobs in sheltered workshops to jobs in the larger community.
At a Wednesday press conference hosted by the Greater Springfield Chamber of Commerce, heads of two state departments congratulated the community on being chosen from 17 applicants as an Employment First Implementation sites.
Although the award does not come with grant money, it does include access to a facilitator to help put the local program together.
Kevin Miller, director of the newly renamed Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Agency, called the move from workshops into the larger community “just another natural step when we think about the progression” of people with developmental disabilities.
Miller called the Springfield area a perfect place to “push the agenda” because it is large enough to have a substantial community but has a “hometown, small-town flavor.”
John Martin, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, said Clark County’s selection recognizes the “very creative, excellent leadership” of Jenny Rousculp, director of Developmental Disabilities Clark County, and the community’s reputation for being a place where people “come together to support individuals.”
Martin was at Oestelen Services for Youth in August to announce county social service agencies were awarded $178,000 in to create a pilot program providing respite care to mentally ill or developmentally disable youth in crisis.
Horton Hobbs, vice president of economic development for the Greater Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, said hiring people with developmental disabilities “is not charity” but rather is “an exemplary act of corporate citizenship.”
He also called it part of an effort to “deliver a work force for our business community.”
Hobbs listed among the businesses already involved: Applebee’s, Speedway, Armaloy of Ohio, Fink Meats, Dole, Big Lots, Kroger’s, Ace Hardware and the Ohio Masonic Community.
Rousculp said that despite a problemed economy, “I look at (the situation in) Springfield and Clark County as a wonderful opportunity” to development the program.
When the community’s aging Baby Boomers retire, she said jobs will open up in the service industry, where many developmentally disabled people work.
“At the same time,” she added, “we have 363 kids ages 6-21” in the developmental disabilities system, many of whom will be looking for work.
Miller added that businesses realizing that hiring developmentally disabled employees is not only the right thing to do but the profitable thing to do is “changing the conversation we have to have.”
Jeana Baucant, who heads Project Search efforts to trains developmentally disabled high school graduates in employment skills at Springfield Regional Medical Center (SRMC), introduced two of her program’s graduates.
After describing his job busing tables, cleaning the salad bar, carpets and bathroom on weekends at Frisch’s on Bechtle Avenue, Curtis Lininger got a laugh from the 75 at the gathering when he added, “and I get tips.”
Baucant also introduced Sierra Frost, winner of the Margaret Binkley Client of the Year award from United Rehabilitation Services.
In an address recorded on a computer, Frost told the group, “I love coming to work every day and being with awesome people” and that she feels “blessed” to be able to work.
Kari Richards spoke to Frost’s influence at SRMC.
First repeating other employees’ praise for Frost as “a wonderful person and a blessing to our department” whose value “we cannot put into a monetary value,” Richards added, “We fell in love with these kids.”