Martins hailed for hirings

Published 5:28 am Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Staff Writer

It is rare to find a “Help Wanted” sign in the front window of The Meeting Place restaurant on West Main Street in Washington.
When co-owner Anne Martin needs help, she does not place a classified ad in the newspaper or comb the Internet for prospective employees.
Martin knows her most reliable employees are found through the Beaufort County Developmental Center’s Supported Employment program for people with developmental disabilities.
“I have always said that if I could hire every one from BCDC, I would,” Martin said. “They are very dependable and have a great attitude. The fact they are dependable is number one with me.”
Martin and her husband, Bob, have hired more than 15 BCDC clients in the past 12 years. Their commitment to the program earned them national recognition from NISH as recipients of the 2009 Small Business Partnership Award.
BCDC provides qualified prospective applicants along with job coaches who furnish on-the-job training in work-related skills and behavior. As the skill and confidence of the new employees develop, job coaches spend less time at the work site but are always available for support.
In a field known for an above-average turnover rate, The Meeting Place has been able to keep departures to a minimum by hiring BCDC participants.
“Every (hire) has been long term,” Anne Martin said. “They stay as long as they want to and they have a really good track record.”
At the Washington-Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce’s Business After Hours event Monday night, Martin fought back tears as she encouraged other small-business owners to consider BCDC clients for employment.
“All they ask for is a chance,” she said.
At the same gathering, 22-year-old Lee Williamson of Aurora was presented with the William Usdane Award for outstanding achievement and exceptional character by Micky Gazaway, NISH South Region executive director. Williamson was one of six Usdane Award recipients nationwide and received $500 for winning the regional award.
NISH is a national nonprofit agency whose mission is to create employment opportunities for people with severe disabilities. In Washington, it partners with BCDC through AbilityOne, a program that matches federal contracts with community programs for the disabled. For the past five years, Williamson has been working three days a week building inflators for the Navy under a Department of Defense contract. He also attends Beaufort County Community College two days a week.
“Lee was a quiet child growing up,” said his father, Gene. “He is a lot more self-confident and outgoing now, and he gets a paycheck every two weeks.”
Gazaway estimated that 100 people were nominated for the award nationwide. He added that it is unusual for one nonprofit agency to win two awards, especially on first-time nominations as was the case with the Martins and Williamson.
Chris Kiricoples, executive director of BCDC, indicated that 55 individuals are involved in the daytime vocational training-service program which includes the adjustment training program and supported-employment program.
“One of the problems is their experience base is limited and they are not able to work,” Kiricoples said. “The adjustment training program gives them enough exposure and experience so they can pick the (jobs) they like the most. In the supported-employment program, they are placed on a job and are on the employer’s payroll, and we provide an employment specialist. That can last from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the individual. The real benefit for the employer is that we guarantee the job will get done no matter what because the staff member is there to do it until the member has mastered the task.”