Overcoming obstacles and succeeding

My name is Richard. I was born with a medical condition which affects my leg muscles and to a more minor extent my upper body strength. Additionally I have balance issues and tend to trip more easily.

I started working at New England Business Associates (NEBA) in May of 2006. Previous to my employment I had been a client of NEBA’s services. I was referred to NEBA by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. I informed them that I was interested in a position which would let me utilize my computer skills, my verbal ability, and organizational skills. They recommended that I utilize the services that NEBA provides and I met Neil David, who would later become my case manager. Neil and I would spend some time in NEBA’s office job searching on the computer to see which positions were currently available. He would also arrange appointments to come to my house and from there we would drive to local businesses and submit my application and resume.

As fate would have it, I received a call from Neil saying that a temporary position became available at NEBA. I had seen over this time spent searching for employment, the services that NEBA provides to all of its clients and the kindness of all of the staff. I jumped at this opportunity and never looked back.was hired temporarily as the receptionist for NEBA.  As I was able to demonstrate the additional skills that would benefit NEBA, I was able to transition from temporary receptionist to permanent Administrative Assistant.  Working at NEBA continues to be a wonderful experience. Over the course of my employment I have seen the progression of so many of NEBA’s clients, either in the work that they do at their chosen jobs or in their social abilities and interactions with others in the office.   

As for myself, I have learned so much during the course of my employment at NEBA and feel that they have given me the opportunity to show my abilities and skills as well as gain office administrative experience and develop new skills. The staff here is very accommodating of any extra assistance I may need such as lifting heavy supplies off of shelves or any other physically demanding task I may need extra assistance with due to my disability.

On occasion, I give the clients their schedules and let them know who they will be working with during the week. I have also helped the clients order lunch by making the phone call for them if needed and then making sure that they receive their food. Client transportation is very important as many of the clients do not drive. I assist them by calling and making sure that their transportation is on time and make sure they know when the bus is coming.

The writer’s workshop at NEBA is working with a client to write a book. When needed, I will assist the client by working with him to develop his ideas and help him put those ideas in writing. I also monitor our classroom when the instructor is out of the room.

I feel that the work I do here at NEBA is the perfect fit for me and my abilities. Having a physical disability, I feel that the goal’s that NEBA accomplishes empowers all of the people that they serve.  The clients have become more productive members of society by gaining employment in their chosen fields of interest.  In other cases NEBA helps the individuals learn skills to become more independent both at their job and in their living situations. These goals that NEBA strives to provide are very much needed in society and truly inspirational. It is, and has been a wonderful experience for me to work at New England Business Associates.

Written by NEBA employee Rich G. 

Are you interested in learning more about NEBA and what we do… visit http://www.nebaworks.com or follow us on Facebook.

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New England Business Associates Salutes Client Economic Advancement

Economic development is often defined as reaching an increased level of financial stability. For most people that translates to working and being financially self-supporting. Individuals receiving government benefits are encouraged by society and other factors to stay on funded benefits.  To work towards self-sufficiency and stop government funded benefits requires a great deal of support and information from a wide range of resources. 

At its April 16th, NEBA Salutes, dinner, New England Business Associates (NEBA) recognized two individuals who have attained the unique status of ending government funded benefits.  These individuals made decisions to work towards financial self-sufficiency in the competitive workforce.  

Sandra is working with a major health organization and looking forward to the purchase of her first car.  Jose is using his MBA for the first time in over a decade to work in a business setting that solves and monitors complex financial situations.  Both individuals shared their story with a group of other individuals also seeking to attain financial selfsufficiency.  

Individuals receiving Social Security benefits and seeking information regarding the Ticket to Work program should go to http://www.chooseworkttw.net.  NEBA is a TTW agency and can provide individual information on this program.

This event was funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and is part of a program to support Massachusetts residents in attaining economic sustainability through employment or self-employment.

 

Meet Jesse

When I was asked to write about a successful autistic consumer for Autism Awareness Month, immediately, I thought of Jesse. I tried to write about Jesse with the very standard “struggles to success” plot line. While what I wrote was all very accurate, it just didn’t seem to do Jesse any justice. He is simply too dynamic for a formulaic article.

However, background is important. Jesse has been diagnosed with autism. He came to NEBA about two years ago to learn employable skills, find volunteer placements, and eventually become employed. Jesse has completed all these goals and more. He attended the Career Ladders program and still attends each week; though his job and volunteer placements don’t leave him enough time for full days of class any more. Jesse currently works as an office assistant once a week at Health Resources, a doctor’s office in Hadley. He excels in all his tasks, which range from filing patient information to walking the office dog. Jesse also volunteers at the Hubbard Library, which he dusts while trying not to get distracted by the movies and music that call to him from the shelves. If that weren’t enough to keep him busy, Jesse volunteers twice a week at Dakin Animal Shelter.

Just like a list of diagnoses doesn’t accurately describe Jesse, neither does his resume depict the vivid person, who loves movies, music, books, dancing, peanut butter cookies, and keeps Charlotte, the Spider in his pocket.  When Jesse enters NEBA, he walks straight to the nearest person to tell them the latest news about his Johnny Cash CD collection. Jesse, NEBA’s social butterfly, travels from one person to another a reciting different movie line duet with each person, spanning films from Aladdin to The Wizard of Oz. While anyone can recite quotes and memorize facts, I have met very few people who feel the excitement of each one so deeply inside themselves and have the ability to infect others with their enthusiasm.

At Dakin, Jesse folds laundry, which I think most of us will agree, can get repetitive at times. To keep towel folding interesting, Jesse has started reciting stories. Each day I work with him, I get a different tale complete with accents, dramatic pauses, and flourishing gestures that only occasionally interrupt his folding. I have heard everything from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow to The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Disney Audiobook), with a particular affinity for Dr. Seuss. When I say that Jesse is reciting stories, I mean the whole entire book, along with copyright date, background on the author, and the occasional instruction to “flip the tape over.”

Jesse doesn’t just have a passion for movies and books but also for music, specifically Johnny Cash. He can list every song and CD Cash produced with the same information and detail listed on its label. When he plays the music that he loves so profoundly, you can see the excitement course through his body and be released as he sings and dances. Jesse doesn’t worry about what people think of him when he performs, something most of us could only wish we could reproduce in ourselves. He simply feels the music and wants to share the feeling with those around him, especially those in the audience he has collected beforehand.

Recently, Jesse and I have been working to creatively combine many of his interests. Every Friday, I help Jesse to write about one of his passions in a limerick. Jesse chooses the topic, checks the rhyming dictionary, and creates his own poems. I type and occasionally help cut out some extra syllables. Once again, the enthusiasm Jesse feels about these topics and about writing his own poems, barrels through him. We sit together at a computer, while Jesse grins and moves excitedly back and forth in his chair, formulating poems about every topic from Johnny Cash to Mr. Hoober-Bloob.

Jesse, like everyone else, goes through life with ups and downs, successes and struggles in addition to his Autism. However, he is so much more than this. Jesse loves his passions deeply and enthusiastically in an uninhibited way that most of can’t image or at least admit to. Just having the chance to appreciate his enthusiasm and to feel it rub off on those around him, is something I look forward to every week.

Do you want to learn more about NEBA and what we do, visit our website at http://www.nebaworks.com and sign up for our newsletter.

This post was written by Hannah Spiro, an Employment Consultant for New England Business Associates.

Marketing

Marketing: “The activity set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.” – Wikipedia

When I was looking to join NEBA after getting to know my current supervisor, I was impressed by how NEBA emphasizes something not often seen in our non-profit, human services world: Marketing. The concept of marketing is not just used in the business world to obtain greater profit, it is also used to help forge mutually beneficial partnerships between businesses and non-profit organizations.

When NEBA started its push  into the great state of Connecticut almost two years ago, one of the things we did to build our foundation was join various chamber and networking groups around the state. We started with the Metro Hartford Alliance, the Greater New Haven Chamber, and the Chambers in Cheshire, Manchester and Waterbury. We are also members of similar organizations in Massachusetts such as the Greater Springfield Chamber. Each of these chambers present monthly events that our staff are assigned to attend. These events are specifically for networking and relationship building. The general message that we try to put forth at these events includes:

  • Economic Development.  In my previous post I spoke about this at length. In summary, NEBA is bringing economic development to the communities we serve by helping people gain employment, in turn requiring less assistance from state and federal resources. We also contribute economically to our communities by hiring full-time staff to help with our ever-growing organization in Connecticut.
  • Community.  We appeal to the people we speak to that we are trying to help the people we serve to eventually become independent and achieve personal succes.  By hiring these individuals, regional businesses are serving the community they live in.
  • What are their needs?  By attending these  monthly events we build relationships with companies and try to find out what needs they may have. By building these relationships, we can help them fill those needs and in turn find employment for our individuals.

A lot of today’s business world is impersonal. We at NEBA continue to believe in the power of face to face, human interaction. This is why we seek out networking events and one-on-one personal connections with the various businesses that are members of these chambers.

– Timothy J Blonsky, Senior Employment Specialist, Connecticut Team

The NEBA Business Development Center and Self-Employment

 

Who might be the next Donald Trump?

For the NEBA Business Development Center (BDC) that person could be any one of the 30-plus entrepreneurs who have completed a business plan through our program.

Since 2007, 83 individuals have explored the possibility of starting a business through the NEBA program. Did they all complete the self-employment path?  No.  But each individual did discover what the right path might be for becoming self-supporting. The 39 individuals that made the commitment to own a business and become self-employed are striving to be self-supporting and self-directed.

How did these individuals become self-employed?

The BDC offers assistance to people with disabilities to establish their own business. The program provides entrepreneurial training from the development of a business concept, the writing of a business plan to assisting, as needed, in the actual implementation of the business.

The program started by serving five individuals with a spectrum of disability challenges, and now serves 51 active participants. Direct service hours have expanded from 50 hours in the first year to 1,122 hours in FY 2010-2011. To date 39 plans have been written.

Program participants come by referral and as “walk-ins”. Most are Social Security beneficiaries using their Ticket to Work benefit. The goal of the BDC program fits perfectly with the goal of the Ticket to Work program; to assist participants in being self-supporting.

Once accepted into the BDC program the participant begins a series of weekly meetings that continue for an average of 60 hours to complete a SCORE-based plan. (SCORE is a program of the Small Business Administration to assist new business owners).

The BDC curriculum develops a participant’s financial literacy based on managing business operating costs, monitoring cash flow and developing business equity. Computer competency, using Word and Excel, is another outcome of the program. Participants work to develop their business idea, complete a business plan and implement their business concept.

The course begins with the development of the business financials. Operating expense information gives the participant an understanding of what it costs to run the business they have in mind. Expense information reveals the product or service price needed to cover costs. Participants develop three years of financials and the narrative to explain the financials.

In the current economic environment self-employment growth from all sectors of the population is a critical component to the revival of the general economy. Ironically, any surge in new business development has historically been during times of economic recession.  This is true for the disabled as well as the non-disabled.

If you know anyone with a disability that is interested in being self-supporting, share this blog. The NEBA website www.nebaworks.com provides information on both supported employment and self-employment.  Both paths lead to being self-supporting.

How can more individuals with disabilities participate in the current economic revival?

Explore the possibility of self-employment through a personal assessment.

Why is being self-supporting a benefit to all?

When the entire community is self-supporting, there is more for everyone.

Colleen M Moynihan,  M Ed,  CLU, CMFC
Director, NEBA Business Development Center

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