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  • Making lemonade from lemons

    Sep 18,2015


    Erin Kackos, James’s Prevocational Specialist is a pillar of support for James.

    Allow me to introduce you to James Carr! James is a volunteer, here at the JFS Orange office. A big initiative is underway to close down work centers (formerly called “workshops”) for people with disabilities. The initiative by Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) is motivated by an attempt to move away from institutionalization and towards community inclusion. It was last winter when we were approached by Valerie Livingston Litt, Business and Community Development Team Leader of Access; Supports for Living, to hire people from their program.

    “Well,” I thought, “we are fully staffed now, and are not hiring, but we could give someone a volunteer opportunity to have some office experience”. Several staff at JFS put our heads together; there surely are things that we need help with. James was eager to step in and assist. He comes to our office on a weekly basis, ready to water plants, do our recycling and have a hand at the computer with data entry. Aside from giving James these opportunities, we’ve focused on office etiquette. What does it mean to:

    • take responsibility for a job through its completion?
    • check in with a supervisor about the need for more work?
    • be a part of a team?
    • show caring for one another by offering a genuine hello or good-bye?

    When I asked James about his work experience at JFS Orange, he shared, “I like it because you guys make me feel good inside and you guys are like a family to me. Also, I like to help you guys out. I like all the work. It’s giving me some office experience. I like doing the data entry, learning more about Excel and Word. Watering the plants gives me the experience I can use in a landscaping job in the future. That’s why I like working here. I’m hoping to have an outside job soon.”

    It’s true; we do feel like James is part of our family. Aside from carrying weight through his work in the office, we do consider him part of our family of staff. This relationship is a gift all around; we give and we receive, as does James. Our connection to James is a beautiful expression of our mission; to empower all people facing challenging times to live with dignity, hope and strength.