Parents of children with mental disabilities live with the weight of wondering how their child will live life as an adult, once their schooling is finished. How will they spend their days? What will happen to them once their parents are gone?
60010 resident Randy Lewis knows the worries of these parents first hand. A father of a son with autism, Randy realized that his son may be dependent on him for his entire life. But unlike most parents, Randy was in a position to help make important change that could help many families facing the same situation. Randy worked for Walgreens in their logistics division. He was part of the growth of the chain from 1500 to over 8000 stores. He started a disability employment program that resulted in over 1000 jobs for individuals with disabilities.
“If we can’t do something about the situation, who can?” Randy
Most employers worry people with disabilities might not do jobs as well as non-disabled employees or could be a liability to the company. Randy will tell you otherwise.
After an initiative to employ 30% disabled persons at one of the
Walgreens distribution centers, Randy shared, “The people with
disabilities perform as well or better than those without
disabilities. They work safer, have better job retention and less
Randy believes that assumptions can't be made about what disabled people can or can not do. Another Barrington resident David Waring shares his belief and had worked as a counselor at a Rotary summer camp for children with disabilities when he was young. With the help of Barrington Youth and Family Services, they want the Barrington community to lead the change. They have started Barrington Summer Employment Transitions (SET). The program will allow local businesses to employ disabled teens and young adults without concern for the job getting done. Each disabled person will be paired with a non-disabled job coach to perform their duties.
“I couldn't be more pleased to hear about the Job Coach Initiative. My
son Sam is 16 and has Down syndrome. He fully expects to work doing
something he loves like everyone else in the family. The challenge as
parents is visualizing what this will look like. With support and
direction - the potential and unique talents of individuals like Sam
will be a benefit to everyone,” shared Barrington resident Gaye
Barrington Summer Employment Transitions (SET) is modeling the program after a successful life-cycle approach leading a community to over 20 years of success including citizens with disabilities into the workforce. Community-based and funded, Sarnia, a city in Ontario Canada has helped other cities in Canada create successful programs, yet no cities in the United States have taken on the initiative.
Randy feels strongly his hometown in 60010 could set an example. and with David Waring, a member of the Barrington Breakfast Rotary, they kicked off Barrington Summer Employment Transitions at a Barrington Breakfast Rotary meeting where invited local businesses leaders attended to learn more. They also wrote grant requests to local foundations and now appear to have the funding in place to make the initiative happen this summer.
“A job can mean independence security and relationships,”
Barrington Summer Employment Transitions (SET) is looking for employers with summer job opportunities. They will pre-screen students to make sure the right matches are made to get the jobs done.
See a TEDx talk given by Randy Lewis and his experience at Walgreens here: