Workforce helps woman overcome employment barriers

After some physical setbacks that left Melissa Austin using a cane, she found it difficult to get a job.

“It was slow at first because I was getting a lot of denials because of my cane being considered a liability, which I understand,” Melissa said.

Melissa worked with Job and Family Services’ Advantage program which connected her to a state-funded placement working in the kitchen at Carver Community Center. She also was connected with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities which led her to Goodwill to receive assistance in securing permanent employment.

“The process started to pick up at this point. Goodwill helped with purchasing clothing, and shoes for interviews,” Melissa said. “Then my employment specialist, Jo (Elonaray Perkins), did a lot of the job searching for me. Between her and I, we put in several applications.”

With her foot already in the door at Carver, Melissa was well-positioned when an opening arose in Carver’s childcare program.

“The opening came up and the director asked if I was still needing employment. I said yes, I am,” Melissa said.

Melissa is enjoying her new job where she helps greet the children in the morning, ensuring they had a good separation from their parents. After getting the kids breakfast, they focus on teaching things like ABCs, 123s, colors, and shapes to ready the kids to start school.

“Early in the morning they’re sleepy, they’re hungry, and they’re leaving their parents, so we try to make a comforting and open environment for the children,” Melissa said. “Their attention spans can also be short, so it can be challenging but you just have to stay positive and repetitive with them.”

Melissa’s “positive can-do attitude” is what Elonaray said makes her a great employee for Carver and lead to continued success.

“I can say my life has changed because of Goodwill. For one, I’m employed. Secondly, the children, they are my favorite part of the job. A lot of them just need to bond with someone they trust during the day at this age,” Melissa said. “At first, it was hard for them to come to me because I was new, or because of the cane, but now they have grown to trust me and opened up to me.”

“I would definitely recommend Jo and (Goodwill’s’ workforce development services). The people that helped me were amazing. If you have a disability or something that is a barrier to getting a job or just living your life, this is a program that can help you get over that,” Melissa said. “There is always something out there. All you must do is try, and it’s going to take a minute because it took me over six months to get to where I am now. You just have to keep looking. Goodwill gave me the resources and the support that I needed to do just that.”

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