UTILIZING SOURCEAMERICA TO HELP EMPLOYEES WITH DISABILITIES
Change can be hard. As an organization focused on employing people with disabilities, we are mindful of how change can impact our employees and aim to discover ways we can work together to empower successful transitions. One example of this came when one of our long-time employees encountered a big change in his own life.
Michael Dethman began his work at Relay Resources as a janitor, taking care of Portland Public Schools. He later moved to our Supply Chain Solutions business unit where he did a variety of tasks including manufacturing, assembly, and fulfillment. “I helped stamp Danner boot insoles, which meant reading fact sheets, working with different materials, and using Kanban bins to organize what needed to be replenished,” recalls Michael. “If employees at Danner were working on Saturday, we made sure they had what materials they needed. I also assembled police kits for crime scene investigations and helped with Hydro Flask order fulfillment sorting and quality control. Before I left, I even got to do some work in food packaging putting together salad toppers. Relay really opened up big doors for me.” Relay Resources was a great fit for Michael, which made it difficult to imagine changing jobs.
When Michael’s family decided to move to Utah to be closer to extended family, he came to the Relay team for guidance and support with the big transition. “I met Michael when he reached out to ask for help,” remembers Recruitment Manager, Melanie Damm. “This was going to be a huge change for him – he had been in the Pacific Northwest his whole life and was settled. Having to uproot and start over made him anxious, but he wanted to find a job similar to what he was doing in Supply Chain Solutions.”
Melanie and Michael sat down together to come up with a plan. Melanie helped him with his resume, provided interview tips, and reviewed how to use job search sites. They went to the SourceAmerica website and searched the nonprofit locator to find organizations in Utah that were similar to Relay Resources. “We found a few close to where he was going to be moving. I reached out to the top three with an introduction email and Michael’s resume, then passed the contact information along to Michael. We also gave him copies of all his AbilityOne paperwork so that he had it available and didn’t have to get it again for his new job.”
SourceAmerica is a nonprofit focused on creating employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities. They coordinate with a national network of more than 500 nonprofits that participate in the AbilityOne program, connecting them with federal and commercial customers to provide employment and training opportunities. The AbilityOne program focus on hiring individuals with significant disabilities and maintaining AbilityOne contracts with at least 75% of labor performed by people with disabilities.
Nonprofits that participate in the AbilityOne program are trained and familiar with creating a work environment that is productive for the individual employee. “The types of jobs we focus on are those that can’t be automated, and allow for accommodations for people with a wide range of disabilities,” notes Melanie. “We have learned a lot over the years and have developed best practices that empower employees and help them find meaningful work.”
When asked how working for an AbilityOne employer helps him be successful, Michael paused and reflected on how his achievements have included helping others be successful as well. “I’m highly functioning autistic, so it helps me to understand that sometimes people just need more help to understand what they are doing,” notes Michael. “I can relate to employees and what they’ve gone through, and be a positive light… show them they can be successful. We are there to provide a service to help employees feel good about themselves in and outside of work. To understand that maybe they can’t do one thing, but they can do another. They learn how to do something and then get better at something else outside work.”
Since the move, Michael has been settling into his new home. “Utah has really grown on me,” says Michael. “I got a temporary job over the holidays, then I spent two and a half weeks hitting the pavement to find a job. Melanie helped me try to find work. I found Columbus Community Center on a job posting site. They liked my resume and previous job experience. I’m currently working in the warehouse, getting set up as a back-up driver, and get to do some quality control projects. I even have a walky-talky. Just need to make some new friends, but it’s nice having family around. I’m very happy to be working.”
Our Relay team got to meet Columbus Community Center leaders in person at the SourceAmerica National Training and Achievement Conference. "It was really great to connect with the Columbus team after helping Michael through his move," says Jason Wilkey, senior vocational specialist at Relay Resources. “Meeting other people who work to serve a mission similar to ours just reinforces how important it is for all of us to work together.”
Making a move is never easy, but working together as a team can help set employees up for success. “We offer this service to all employees, especially those who are part of the AbilityOne program,” says Melanie.
AbilityOne focuses on helping employees who may not otherwise be able to maintain competitive employment. If those employees need to move or feel that they want to enter into a competitive employment position at another organization, they may benefit from additional assistance on how to search, apply, and interview for jobs. “We encourage our employees to come to our HR department for assistance, whether they are looking to transfer to another position within Relay or if they would like to find a job somewhere else,” says Melanie. “Help can include cover letters, resumes, internal transfers, referrals, recruiter assistance, and other tools that can help them get to where they want to go.”
When asked about her work with Michael, Melanie lights up. “Michael is such a great guy and awesome to work with. I’m so happy that he found a job that’s a good fit. We want to help set our employees up for success, both here and beyond.”
Best of luck in your new role Michael!
To learn more about SourceAmerica and the AbilityOne program, check out the links below.