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A driver’s license. A pickup truck. A cell phone. A girlfriend. A job.
Many a young man would be quite satisfied to check all those boxes on his wish list by age 22.
James Ritchie certainly is.
His family lent assistance, as most families do, on the first three.
The job is thanks to a caring local business (Giant Eagle of Calcutta), and a program that matches individuals with developmental disabilities with employers in their local communities.
The girlfriend, he got on his own.
Manager Buddy Robinson said Giant Eagle of Calcutta has long experience in hiring those with developmental disabilities. “They are able to do the work. They are accountable, dependable, and do a good job. Why not give them the opportunity?”
James started in mid-October. He works part-time, usually two or three shifts a week. He bags at the registers, rounds up carts from the parking lot, picks up trash, and generally assists customers and staff with whatever needs to be done.
“James is a very hard worker,” Shirley Bowald said. “He sees what needs to be done and does it. Once you get to know him, you find he has a good sense of humor and can put people at ease.”
Bowald, as employment development manager of Reach 4 More, a program of the Columbiana County Board of Developmental Disabilities, takes an active role in placing CCBDD clients in jobs at local businesses.
“Shirley has another person who knows the (Giant Eagle) store manager. He got me the application. Shirley called and told me I got the job,” said James.
This isn’t James’s first paying job. He was a bagger at Salem Giant Eagle and a dishwasher at the Shale Restaurant in Lisbon through the STARS (Students Transitioning to Achieve Real Success) program. STARS facilitates high school students and recent graduates with disabilities as they rotate through jobs in a number of county businesses and organizations. Participants get workplace experience, earn paychecks, and explore the world of work in a variety of settings.
“I went through a lot of the program and it was helpful,” James said. After STARS he worked for a year and a half unloading trucks at the Salem Wal-Mart.
James has lived in Lisbon with his aunt and uncle, Deborah and John Kanos, since he was six weeks old. The couple has three adult children: daughters aged 30 and 26, and a son, 27. Deborah is James’s legal guardian.
To him, Deborah and John are Mom and Dad.
Transportation to and from work can be an issue for those with disabilities. James is fortunate in having not only his driver’s license but a 2003 Dodge Dakota pickup truck to drive.
“The loan is in my husband’s name but James makes the payments. It’s really his,” said Deborah. “Our older kids work and we have always told James if you want anything you have to work for it. You have to try.”
Although he receives income support through the SSI Disability program and his health insurance through Medicaid, and would not have to work, she said, “he’s happier when he works.”
Asked what he likes about his new job, James said, “I like everything. If I have any trouble they always help me out.”
“James is a gentle person,” said Deborah. “He has always been pleasant. He is willing and able to do the physical part (of a job) and is learning the social part.”
She said James has learned that things don’t always go smoothly at work. “We tell him go to your manager if you have an issue. Finish your shift and when you get home we’ll talk about it.”
The Reach 4 More program recognizes that persons with developmental disabilities are individuals with their own likes and dislikes, interest areas and skill sets. Shirley Bowald said the staff works hard to match clients with jobs in which they can succeed and “enjoy all the things that go along with having a job.”
Deborah said James has always followed his own mind. He had no interest in attending a sheltered workshop, for instance. “For him, the long-range goal is having a job and holding it. He figures things out for himself.”
. . . Such as the fact that the Giant Eagle job regularly puts him near his girlfriend, who lives in East Liverpool and works at a Calcutta restaurant.
“So it works out if I don’t get out of work too late,” James said.
This article has been reproduced for educational purposes only and appeared in The Review. The original story can be found at: http://www.reviewonline.com/news/local-news/2017/11/young-mans-wish-list-truck-girlfriend-job/
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