Banner month for Rights Job program

Pelham's Andy Sanford assembles furniture April 18 at his job at Alabama Furniture Market. (Reporter photo/Brad Gaskins)

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

April has been a banner month for the Arc of Shelby’s Rights Job Supported Employment program.

The Rights Job program helped five individuals find employment throughout the month. That’s the most new hires for a single month in the program’s 12-year history, according to Jennifer Thomas, one of the Arc’s employment specialists.

The program assists individuals with significant developmental disabilities by helping bring them together with community employers through meaningful work and eager employees.

Within the last two weeks, three individuals with developmental disabilities started new jobs at the Whataburger in Chelsea, the Publix in Calera and the Winn-Dixie on Valleydale Road.

In addition, start dates for two additional employees are pending at Lowe’s and Minuteman Printing Press, both in Alabaster.

A sixth individual interviewed for another position April 18 and could be the program’s sixth hire during the month.

The program matches employees with potential employers based on the skill set of the employee, Thomas said.

“We work with the employer to match them with the right person and to help with training that’s needed,” said Kristin Webb, the Arc’s director of development. “It’s so vital for business partners to partner with us.”

Thomas and Heather Bell-Lawing, both employment specialists, will be recognized with an award from the Arc for their “dedication and drive to make a difference in the lives of those with developmental disabilities,” Webb said.

Pelham’s Andy Sanford is skilled at putting things together, which helped him land a job putting together furniture at Alabama Furniture Market in Calera.

Like with all hires, an employment specialist will stay with Sanford for the duration of the job.

“The Arc has been real helpful,” Alabama Furniture Market owner Chris Akins said. “They came here with him the first day and observed him to make sure he was able and capable to do the job. He’s been working here part-time ever since. He’s doing a good job.”

Thomas said businesses considering partnering with the Arc should know that the potential employees are some of the hardest workers around.

“They don’t want to take off,” Thomas said. “They want as many hours as possible.”