ELIZABETH, NJ--October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, an annual celebration of both people with disabilities who work and those businesses and organization that employ them. More than 18 million Americans with disabilities are employed today, contributing to their employer's productivity and profits while paying taxes and supporting the economy as consumers.
Locally, the nonprofit Community Access Unlimited (CAU) has a robust program for preparing its members with disabilities for employment, then connecting them with businesses looking to employ them, according to Joanne Oppelt, assistant executive director of business development at the agency.
CAU operates an Employment and Day Habilitation Services Department that assists those members who wish to work, comprising pre-placement services, including training in interviewing skills, work dress and on-the-job behavior; liaison support; on-the-job coaching; and follow-up to ensure both the member and the employer are happy, according to Oppelt.
"We're always serving as the advocate for both the member and the employer," she said.
CAU member Sharon Mohry has been employed at ShopRite for more than 20 years, working six hours a day one or two days a week. She started in maintenance and today restocks returns and helps fill orders that come in online for either pick-up or delivery. Mohry loves her job.
"I like the people," she said. "My supervisor, Laura, is very good to me. We're pals. I like what I do and I really like getting paid. You work hard for your money."
Laura Augustine, ShopRite From Home Manager in Clark, said Mohry is an excellent employee.
"She's the best," she said. "She does everything we ask and more. She's always here and always pleasant."
CAU member Chavia Crute is a food service worker for Witsons Culinary Group at Irvington High School, working Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. She has been with Witsons for about one year.
"I love my job," Crute said. "The people I work with are very friendly and I love working with kids."
Krystal Tanner, food services director at Witsons, is thrilled with Crute's performance and the way she interacts with the adults and teenagers at the school.
"She's very consistent and reliable and she has an extremely welcoming and soothing personality," she said. "She also has good attendance and is very punctual."
More than 50 CAU members are employed at local businesses in Union County, in areas including...