Their stories are different, but the outcome is the same: steady employment, a positive support system and pride in their work.


Their stories are different, but the outcome is the same: steady employment, a positive support system and pride in their work.

Donata and Justin are local examples of the many talents, skills and dedication disabled individuals contribute to the workforce during October, a month in which the U.S. Labor Department deems National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

This year, the theme is “Expectation + Opportunity = Full Participation.” It is intended to create awareness of unlimited opportunities for disabled Americans and to stress the importance of the diversity and talents they offer.

Donata, 44, found it difficult to keep a steady job since her 20s.

“It became too much,” the Newton resident said of her past, when she unsuccessfully attempted to remain employed while undergoing intensive therapy and attempting to end her own life.

Now Donata has successfully made the first step to supporting herself as a Wal-Mart cashier, a position she has filled for almost two years.

“I now feel better about myself,” she said. “I’m not just a cashier. I smile at my customers, amazed at how many people look back and say ‘thank you.’”

She takes pride in the compliments she is given, especially on her expertise in bagging groceries, and appreciates the support system of her co-workers who notice and care about her feelings.

Wal-Mart training coordinator Connie Ericksten notices the hard work and determination portrayed by Donata, who takes pride in “knowing I put in 110 percent.”

“Donata is very organized ... and wants to do the very best job to succeed,” Ericksten said.

Justin, also a Wal-Mart employee and Newton resident, celebrated his one year of employment Oct. 14.

Finding joy in teasing other associates, Justin expresses thankfulness for the camaraderie that has been established with his work team and tries to be aware of the customers and their feelings.

“Justin acknowledges you when you enter and leave the store as he is a people greeter and smiles,” said Ericksten. “His humor is expressed in what he does, and [he] is very much a gentleman.”

When looking to hire new employees, Ericksten said, the personnel staff review applicants’ prior work history, references and their attitude toward being a great team player.

“Everyone goes through the same interview process,” she said, “and we choose the people we feel will provide the best customer service because our business is customer service.

“Donata and Justin were friendly, open and willing to work wherever we needed them. They are here when scheduled, ask questions when they aren’t sure of things, want to succeed and are friendly and helpful.”

Both Donata and Justin receive assistance from Prairie View’s Vocational Services Program, a program that assists persons in Harvey, Marion and McPherson counties with disabilities and/or economic barriers to obtain their highest vocational goals.

For more information about the program, contact Chris Zuercher at 284-6439 or zuercherc@pvi.org.