Every week, Wiley’s Home Center in Rincon, GA opens at 9:00 am and starts its busy day. Lee enthusiastically punches the clock precisely at 10:00 am. Detra, the company’s president, remarks that Lee is never late and is always eager to start the day. Lee helps the store function by doing an array of things, such as dusting, checking the tags on furniture, filing paperwork, and her all-time favorite – mopping!
Lee has worked at Wiley’s for 2 years and is continuing to grow in her role at the business. She isn’t new to working, however. She worked for 10 years at Kroger before deciding expand her skills and go to Wiley’s. Lee gives much of the credit to her Supported Employment Specialist, Mandy, but Mandy says that Lee is the real star. “Mandy is the best job coach ever. I love my team and they love me too!” Lee exclaims. Mandy has served as Lee’s Supported Employment Specialist for 8 years and provides ongoing support. She checks in with Lee and her employer at least twice a month and provides Lee with tools that continually build her work skills, all while establishing natural support and working relationships within the community.
Lee’s mother, Diana, had apprehensions when she was first approached about possibly allowing Lee to step out of her comfort zone and become a working woman. “My child is not going to work with a bunch of strangers; you’ve got to be kidding!” Diana said when asked if she would let Lee start her first job. EmployAbility’s staff and case managers didn’t give up and finally convinced Diana. This difficult decision turned out to be the “best thing ever,” according to Lee’s mother. Lee’s parents solidified a schedule that coordinated their daughter’s transportation to and from work. Mandy worked alongside her, demonstrating to her parents that Lee was safe and taken care of until she felt comfortable in her role as an employee.
“A job has given her a life. People don’t know how much effort goes into EmployAbility’s services. I mean, they work with the individuals, they know every one of them, they know every little quirk. She has a great life!” – Diana, Lee’s mother
Diana feels that Lee’s vocabulary has grown, along with her confidence, since she began working. That confidence from being a part of the store’s team has helped her develop independence; she found a roommate and moved into her very own apartment! Diana urges parents to think about the opportunities for their children and not their children’s disability when deciding whether or not to let them work.
Detra reminds other local business of the importance of having a diverse workplace. Hiring adults with developmental disabilities adds positive value to the business. She urges other local businesses to “take a chance,” ensuring that the businesses will benefit in more ways than one.
She continues to express her appreciation for Lee at Wiley’s Home Center, and reiterates that she is a valuable part of Wiley’s team. She feels that Lee has even helped her hone her own professional skills as well. “When I’m having a stressful moment, Lee makes me feel that it’s not worth stressing over; I call her my soul cleanser.