Disabled join the work force - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Disabled join the work force

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Posted: Monday, August 4, 2003 10:01 am | Updated: 1:38 pm, Thu Oct 6, 2011.

Like any other 32-yearold, Jenny has bills to pay. Food, clothing and other necessities have to be bought.

The north Scottsdale resident, however, is developmentally disabled and — until now — unable to support herself.

Because of a Scottsdale job training program, Jenny is earning a living working in a supermarket.

"I really like my job. It isn’t hard work, so it is fun," Jenny said of hauling in carts in the hot sun, bagging groceries and cleaning up aisle messes. "Plus, the people here are really good to me."

The Scottsdale Foundation for the Handicapped trained 45 disabled adults last year to enter the work force.

"It is giving Jenny a sense of purpose and selfconfidence," said Robin Rounds, a foundation job coach who supervises teams of developmentally disabled workers at supermarkets. "I am here the whole time to help them through any situation that may come up. My goal is to help them become independent so they don’t need a job coach."

Jenny’s last name is being withheld because her parents had concerns about her safety.

The unemployment rate for the disabled population is 70 percent, according to U.S. Census figures.

Jeff Battle, foundation president, said the program is designed to integrate people with disabilities into mainstream employment.

"It helps them define themselves in relationship to their culture," Battle said. "People with disabilities are like everybody. They may just have a different way of getting from point A to point B."

At the foundation’s headquarters, adults with disabilities are provided with a work center where they perform a variety of tasks and receive paychecks.

The work center has contracts with Cox Communications, the Arizona Office of Tourism, Motorola and other smaller organizations for assembly, labeling, sorting and bulk mailing.

"They clean remotes, fold printing materials and make cable jumpers," said Cox spokeswoman Andrea Katsenes. "Their dedication to quality is what stands out. We have never seen so much hard work come out of a group."

The nonprofit foundation, which also provides treatment and day training, began in 1973 in a donated trailer near Scottsdale Stadium with only a handful of clients. Its first annual budget was $29,000.

The organization now serves about 130 people a month at three locations, and has an annual budget of $1.8 million. Its main building, at 7507 E. Osborn Road, covers about 10,000 square feet.

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