CLEVELAND — Finding a job is difficult. Throw in a global pandemic and millions of people unemployed — even tougher. Now, add in the challenges of having disabilities.
“It’s just really impacted people a lot. I had several consumers contact me saying they were either fired period or they were laid off or businesses folded,” said Taniya George-Olds, a vocational rehabilitation counselor with the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, or OOD.
The state agency has been around for 50 years, working to help individuals with disabilities get and maintain employment.
“We help individuals with physical disabilities, mental health, emotional health, maybe sensory issues,” George-Olds said.
Recently, they’ve worked harder than ever before to get people to work during the pandemic.
Over the last 13 weeks, OOD has helped place 788 Ohioans into jobs like customer service, food prep, stocking, and more.
And they do it by offering services that are specific to each situation.
People are teamed up with job coaches who go along with them to work, help them get down routines and skills to be comfortable and successful.
They also help with resumes and role-playing for interviews.
All of that is what 22-year-old Kristen Petro thinks helped her land her first full-time job with benefits.
“We talked about my interests and she helped me narrow down my job search and how to apply for a job,” Petro said. “I found Natural Essentials, I applied and I’m working there now!”
Petro said the job, which she’s been at for two months now, is providing more than just a paycheck.
It’s given her independence and confidence she never had before.
“I’m very grateful because I know how much the world is suffering right now and I’m very glad to be in a position where I can help others by providing what they need — which, in our case right now, is a bunch of hand sanitizer!” Petro said.
Petro works on an assembly line and packs bottles into boxes to get them shipped out to all of us who need it.
“Always follow your heart, follow your dream. Even though I’m high functioning with autism, I don’t really see that as who I am entirely.”
The services and job coaches at OOD are completely free and available to anyone who needs them.
To sign up, just head to their website, and click on “What is OOD” — then find your county and call the office closest to you to set up an intake appointment.
OOD services all 88 counties in Ohio.
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