Showing Your Abilities

By Director Barbara Palmer

Employment for individuals with disabilities is the focus in October when we celebrate Disability Employment Awareness Month.

A top priority for the Florida Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) is helping people with developmental disabilities find meaningful jobs. Many other state agencies and partners are actively supporting the mission of employing people with disabilities.

The state of Florida supports businesses that recognize and are committed to hiring individuals with special abilities. Make plans to attend Florida’s Exceptional Employer Awards event on October 4 at Tallahassee City Hall, 300 South Adams Street, to recognize 10 companies from around the state who excel in employing people with special abilities. The 12th Annual Awards event begins at 8:30 a.m. I hope you will be there to celebrate and learn more about hiring capable employees with special abilities.

Also on October 17, Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet will consider a resolution to officially declare this month as Disability Employment Awareness Month in Florida.

An employer to be recognized on October 4 is Cunningham Pest Control of Boca Raton. About a year ago, owner Scott Cunningham hired a person with a disability to help him with his small business and it turned out to be a good match.

Walter Burks is enjoying learning the intricacies of providing exterminating services to customers in Palm Beach County since joining Cunningham Pest Control. Last fall, Burks kept bugging his Hab Center employment coach Maryellen Jones to help him find a job that he could turn into a career. He had tried several other jobs and hadn’t found one he wanted to keep long-term. Jones was able to find a great opportunity when Scott Cunningham needed some help with his pest control business. She knew that Burks and Cunningham would be a good fit. Burks wanted a job that could become a career and also to have a mentor, while Cunningham need a helper to work with him. Burks works between 20 and 30 hours a week.

Burks said, “I am a hands-on person. I like to get along with our customers and I like my boss. That is why I am so excited about my job.”

Employment Services Program Coordinator Maryellen Jones said, “Walter working with Scott is a win-win situation. Walter wins because he has a great job with responsibility with an employer he likes, and Scott wins because he has somebody to help him with his business who is young and eager to learn and eager to work.”

They work well together and Burks has learned many life skills. He is looking for an apartment close to the Boca Raton Hab Center and Cunningham Pest Control to create a well-rounded life for himself.

Recently, Cunningham Pest Control was named a 2017 Florida Exceptional Employer of the Year with the award being presented on October 4 at Tallahassee City Hall.

Jones said, “Walter is very proud that Scott won this award because he admires and respects Mr. Cunningham.”

Cunningham said, “I'm happy to have Walter with me because I can't do this work all by myself, plus I think it's good karma to help others.”

Individuals with disabilities are like you and I, just wanting a chance to show what they can do. APD works in partnership with the state's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program to provide support to individuals and employers to ensure a successful job match.

We need more businesses like Cunningham Pest Control that are willing to provide job opportunities to people who are qualified and able to perform the work. APD and other programs are here to help your organization make a good job match too. We will also be there in the future should there ever become an additional need. We want your organization to have diligent and reliable employees like Walter Burks.

Cunningham said, “I'm happy to have Walter with me because I can't do this work all by myself, plus I think it's good karma to help others.”