Arc of Shelby County strengthens community

By KATIE GUERIN / Community Columnist

Most people follow a similar life trajectory: go to school and then get a job.

Finding employment can be an arduous and frustrating process, particularly during an economic downturn.

If you are an individual with a developmental or intellectual disability, the experience can be even more difficult and without preparation or training it can seem impossible.

The Arc of Shelby County is one organization that has been working with these individuals in the local community for more than 30 years.

Carlos Smith, participant in Arc of Shelby County, works at his job at the Pelham YMCA. (Special/Katie Guerin)

The Arc, which began as a support group for families and eventually evolved into an early intervention resource for very young children, partnered with the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services in 1999 to provide employment services for adults.

The supported employment program, Right Jobs, led the adult participants to create People First of Shelby County in an effort to increase their own advocacy skills.

These two groups work together to find the best employment opportunities available in Shelby County.

Currently, Right Jobs has helped with finding paid employment for numerous people in Shelby County and surrounding areas.

They have also partnered with more than 100 local businesses to provide job experience and skill assessments.

Some of the employers included are Sportsblast, YMCA, Home Depot, Publix, Best Buy, the Wynfrey Hotel, North Shelby Library and the Marriot on U.S. 280.

Lauren Kimbrell, one of the program’s clients who works at the Marriot, said “the people I work with are very sweet and I like the job I am doing.”

It is difficult to express how important this program is for the employees and the employers.

Finding the right type of work for individuals and preparing them for the duties they will be fulfilling can be labor intensive at first, but the benefits are enormous.

Employers establish stronger connections to their local community and promote a more inclusive work environment.

As with any positive working experience, this program fosters self confidence, expanded skill sets and a sense of responsibility.

The Arc of Shelby County and Right Jobs continue their important work in the community and further information can be found at Arcofshelbycounty.org or by calling 664-9313.

Katie Guerin can be reached by email at katie.guerin@gmail.com.