from The Moultrie Observer:
MOULTRIE — Joel Reeves has a job. For most people, that’s not unusual, but for the 23-year-old with Down syndrome it’s a very big deal indeed.
Reeves is one of two people recently hired by Colquitt Regional Medical Center with the assistance of Easter Seals job coaches. Three others are in the Community Work Adjustment program with the goal of being ready to hire by the end of August.
Reeves works in an office behind the emergency room, where he’s helping the hospital become paperless, according to a press release from Easter Seals Southern Georgia.
“When Joel graduated from high school his dream was to work in an office setting and to live in his own apartment,” the press release said. “Both of his dreams have become a reality.”
Down syndrome makes Reeves move slow, so there was some concern that he wouldn’t be able to complete enough work, Easter Seals said. So, after two weeks of training, the hospital and Easter Seals conducted a time study, which found that Reeves completed as much work — and sometimes more — than other workers in the office in the same amount of time.
Easter Seals staff found that Reeves works continuously and is not easily distracted, the press release said. He does not talk to his coworkers and does not use his cell phone until break or lunch.
“He makes very good use of his time at work and that makes a huge difference,” the press release said.
Reeves and the other four workers were able to get their jobs because last summer the vocational department at Easter Seals Southern Georgia received funding to provide supported employment. One of the staff’s first calls was to Jim Matney, president and CEO of Colquitt Regional Medical Center, because they had already developed a working relationship over the last three years.
Recently, Matney shared that he had gathered a long list of individuals who were unemployed and had graduated with a special education certificate, Easter Seals said. He also said that he would love nothing more than to put some of these people to work at the hospital but needed Easter Seals help with providing job coaches. Easter Seals, Colquitt Regional Medical Center, the Project Search teacher, three department heads, YMCA mentoring director, YMCA mentor volunteers and parents of young people with disabilities all met to discuss what was needed for these individuals to become paid successful employees at Colquitt Regional Medical Center.
The team identified five individuals who met the criteria for the services. Then an individualized work plan was created that identified the services needed, addressed barriers and discussed jobs that the individual was interested in. The team then went to the department heads of the hospital and found suitable jobs for them.
Job coaches work with each individual to teach them the job they’re to complete, the press release said. As the individual is able to work more independently, the coaches back off. Currently, each participant is working on his or her own 75 to 85 percent of the time, Easter Seals said.
“The group is already working on identifying other individuals in the community that need assistance with becoming employed,” the press release said. “Mr. Matney has announced that he has identified four additional jobs that are available and would like Easter Seals to fill. It is an exciting opportunity to work with the community and the hospital and assist these individuals with attaining their goals and dreams.”
Easter Seals Vocational Services provides employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities or special needs by offering a variety of training and services to assist them in becoming work ready. Easter Seals Southern Georgia is a non-profit organization that has been providing community support services in the 54 counties in southern Georgia. For more information about Easter Seals Southern Georgia, go to http://southerngeorgia.easterseals.com.