- By Andy Rausch and Joe Reinecker
Securing and keeping a job can be a struggle for many people with disabilities. Tara Malone and SKIL are trying to make that process a little easier. Malone is the organization’s Vocational Rehab and Job Placement Specialist.
The vocational rehab program is in place to provide would-be workers the tools they need to find a job and be successful in it.
Candidates for the program have to first meet with the Department of Children and Families. “Candidates will do some testing to determine what types of jobs they desire and what would be realistic for them,” explains Malone.
Then, once a candidate is approved, they are referred to SKIL. “Once a customer is sent to SKIL, we review their files to see if we would be interested in assisting them,” says Malone. “But really, we pretty much accept everyone.”
Malone says the first thing she does is to draft an action plan. This entails the customer’s goals regarding the job they are seeking and how many hours they will be available to work.
Most participants in the program fall into the category of “supported employment,” which means Malone or another worker will meet with them regularly and visit their place of employment. This ensures the customer is meeting their goals and also determines whether or not they need any sort of assistive devices. Additionally, most customers are provided with a worker to assist them on their job site.
“There is no end date to the program, which is nice,” says Malone. “This means they will have the worker assisting them for an unspecified amount of time. It could be six months, it could be a year.” According to Malone, once the employee is stabilized and feels comfortable in their position, the assisting worker will accompany them with less frequency.
Sometimes employers can opt for a job tryout. This means they can employ the customer temporarily at minimum wage (paid by DCF) to determine whether the customer is a suitable fit for the position. However, most participants in the program are hired outright by the employers. Some employers who have participated in are Sonic Drive-In, Taco Mayo, and Lincoln School in Parsons.
Anyone interested in the program or seeking more information can contact either Tara Malone or Dillon Warren at the Parsons SKIL office at (620) 421-5502.
- by Andy Rausch and Joe Reinecker
This year, like always, Southeast Kansas Independent Living will be having an annual meeting and Christmas dinner. This year the event will be held on Friday, December 6th at the Parsons VFW 704 (105 Main St.). It will begin at 5:30 pm and last until 11:00 pm. According to SKIL CEO/President Shari Coatney, this year's keynote speaker will be a representative from the Disability Rights Center who will be discussing the importance of disability voting in the 2020 election.
“Next year's election is an important one, so we're going to end this year getting revved up for that,” explained Coatney.
There will also be a 50/50 drawing. “That's fun and exciting, and it's also a way for us to help pay for the dinner. And somebody will get to go home with some extra cash in their pocket.” There will also be door prizes awarded. Also, SKIL will be doing a food drive and attendees are encouraged to bring canned foods.
As usual, there will also be an awards ceremony for deserving individuals. “We have a wonderful group of people accepting awards this year, and that's exciting,” said Coatney. “The board members had so many worthy nominations for people to be recognized this year, and that's a really cool thing.”
Coatney says the primary goal for the dinner is to provide people who don't get out of their homes very often to have a place to go and have fun during the holidays. “It offers the opportunity for socialization to people who don't normally get that,” said Coatney. “A lot of people with disabilities don't have many opportunities to let their hair down and have fun and be accepted for who they are and whatever their abilities and limitations are. They can dance and not feel uncomfortable dancing in a wheelchair.”
This year's caterer will again be Mom's Best, but the selection will be different. In the past few years, they have served roast beef. This year, however, there will be chicken and noodles. “We've had them cater the past few years and it always works out smoothly,” said Coatney. “The food is good and they take care of everything, such as serving food and cleaning up afterward.”
The event is open to SKIL customers, employees, and the general public. Come out and join us!