Doing a Great Job

The supported employment program is a win-win for employer and employee.

Two out of three people with disabilities want to work, but have not been able to secure jobs because of accessibility and attitudinal barriers. 

Easter Seals Delaware & Maryland’s Eastern Shore offers programs that match individuals’ interests with businesses’ needs, creating win/win situations for employer and employee alike.

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“We assess skills, abilities and interests,” says Kim Sgromo, an Easter Seals supported employment specialist who helps find jobs and oversees career development for about 40 young men and women in Sussex County and nearby areas of Maryland. “We try to find the best match possible, and then we train them on the job.”

While Sgromo says some participants have been assisted by the program for as long as 20 years, most of the people she works with have recently left high school, like 19-year-old Dalton Cameron.

Dalton recalls meeting with an Easter Seals representative at Seaford High School a couple of months before he graduated in 2015. During that meeting he learned about a six-week paid summer internship program that Easter Seals had created with Best Buddies Delaware. After being accepted into the program, Dalton was paired with a Best Buddies mentor, a college student who worked alongside him in the warehouse at Johnny Janosik Inc. in Laurel.

During the summer Dalton learned how to make cardboard boxes and how to wrap and pack furniture, both for delivery to customers and for return to the warehouse shelves. He worked with tape, cardboard, shrink wrap, foam and other packaging materials.

After Dalton completed his internship, he was offered a full-time job at Johnny Janosik, where he has continued to learn new skills, says Norman Norcisa, the company’s vice president for distribution. “Our employees do a lot of cross-training, and Dalton now assists in assembling and shipping furniture and in recycling warehouse materials,” he says.

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Johnny Janosik is a long-time participant in Easter Seals’ employment programs, going back to 2001. “Here at Johnny Janosik, we look at people for their abilities, and we match their abilities to our needs,” Norcisa says. “We’re like a small family, and we all help each other.” 

One of the company’s first hires through the program is still working at Johnny Janosik, and participates in its 401(k) retirement plan, he says.

Dalton enjoys coming to work every day. “I like getting compliments when I do something well,” he says. And the paychecks are meaningful too, because he’s saving to buy a car.

Most participants in the supported employment program have cognitive or developmental disabilities, and some have physical or learning disabilities as well, Sgromo says. When participants start their new jobs, Sgromo makes it a point to visit with their employers at least once a week. As they become more settled, the visits taper off, but she still checks in on each participant twice a month.

While Easter Seals takes an individualized approach to job training, it offers programs in a variety of settings. Those, like Dalton, who exhibit potential for learning to work without close supervision, are placed in positions where they can develop their independence. Others participate in group training programs—working under close supervision of Easter Seals’ personnel as they learn new skills.

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Easter Seals also offers a community experience program that is ideal for adults with intellectual disabilities, including autism, who like variety and seek opportunities in the community while building the skills needed to work toward employment. Participants engage in leisure activities, visit museums, attend sporting events and sometimes work as volunteers for nonprofit organizations. 

“Having a job and living on your own are the ultimate in independence,” Sgromo says. “We would like everyone in our supported employment program to achieve those goals.”

Dalton Cameron landed a full-time job at Johnny 
Janosik after serving a summer internship
through Easter Seals. (Photo by Maria DeForrest)

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