October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and nobody knows that better than Brenda Hellwig, executive director of Job Squad Inc. in Bridgeport. Finding jobs for people with disabilities is what her organization does.
“A lot of people with good intentions talk about hiring workers with disabilities,” Hellwig said. “We are actually doing it.”
Formed in 1984, Job Squad is a private, nonprofit organization and community rehabilitation program that works under the motto, “We are about jobs”.
“We provide workers to fulfill community needs and at the same time provide individuals with disabilities with the economic and psychological benefits of meaningful employment,” Hellwig said. “The dignity, responsibility and economic independence resulting from gainful employment are very effective ways of enhancing self-reliance, changing attitudes, reducing dependency on public benefits and promoting community acceptance of people with disabilities.”
In 2013, Job Squad employees earned $1.4 million in wages and benefits and paid $469,507 in payroll taxes.
“We always strive to exceed our customers’ expectations and continually work to promote community awareness about the capabilities of individuals with
disabilities,” Hellwig said.
In conjunction with this month-long observance, Job Squad is placing renewed emphasis on its year-round recruitment campaign to find individuals with disabilities who want to work.
“We’re looking to the community for referrals of individuals who can fill jobs for our customers and who may not know about the service that Job Squad provides,” Hellwig said. “We want to get the word out about the opportunities that we can offer to qualified candidates.”
Travis Kline in Job Squad’s human resources department oversees the recruitment program in the counties served by Job Squad, including Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Taylor, Lewis, Upshur, Doddridge, Randolph, Kanawha and Clay.
“With on-the-job training, we can place these individuals at a business in the community, on a service contract or with their own small business,” Hellwig said. “By providing supportive and therapeutic intervention, we strive to ensure successful work experiences for the employees and the employers.”
Job Squad can assist job seekers to fill specific needs of participating businesses in the community and has contracts with state, federal and commercial employees for a variety of services such as custodial, mail presort and grounds maintenance.
“In Clarksburg, we have contracts through the AbilityOne Program, a federal initiative to help people who are blind or have other severe disabilities find employment by working for nonprofit agencies that sell products or services to the U.S. government,” Hellwig said. “Job Squad also has a contract with the State of West Virginia to provide presort mailing services in Charleston. Similar to AbilityOne, this contract provides jobs for people with disabilities in the presort mail industry. Employees on the federal and state contracts receive competitive pay and benefits including sick time, vacation and optional retirement plan participation.”
Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America’s workers with disabilities.
The theme for 2014 is “Expect. Employ. Empower.”
NDEAM’s roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year “National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week.” In 1962, the word “physically” was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities.
In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to “National Disability Employment Awareness Month.” Upon its establishment in 2001, the Office of Disability Employment Policy assumed responsibility for NDEAM and has worked to expand its reach and scope ever since.