Goodwill Addressing the Needs of People with Disabilities

By: Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida
PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - April 8, 2020 - PRLog -- Some of the disability programs and services provided by Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida (SWFL) had to be suspended to keep staff and participants safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Goodwill is working hard to remedy that situation and find ways to continue serving those who may not understand why there has been an interruption to their routines.

Ryan, a Pathways to Work participant, was just in his first few weeks of On the Job Training (OJT) at the Punta Gorda Goodwill store. OJT participants become Goodwill employees to engage in hands-on training in the stores. Goodwill stores, which support mission, unfortunately were mandated to close. When the stores closed, Ryan was temporarily furloughed and provided two-weeks off with pay, only his second paycheck.

"This break in training is affecting his skill acquisition," explains Angela Hemstreet, the Program Manager of Pathways to Work. "We expect to retrace some of the beginning steps when the training resumes but anticipate a positive outcome."

Ryan's job coach looks forward to resuming his training once retail employees return to work. But, until then, PTW job coaches are providing regular outreach. Using online interactive apps like FaceTime, Skype and Zoom, they connect with the persons served making sure they understand why their work schedules have changed.

"We do a lot of checking in with them to help them understand, help them with their anxiety and see if they have any questions," explains Tess Benham, Director of Community Support Services for Goodwill SWFL.

The Pathways to Opportunity (PTO) program, Goodwill's full-day training program for adults with disabilities, is transitioning to distance learning. The 80+ participants are taught computer skills regularly as part of the PTO program. Already 35 PTO participants are ready to transition to online learning and connecting.

"We are working to obtain funding to purchase additional equipment so they all can participate," explains Benham. "It will be a month (next week) that we temporarily closed the program. They are missing their friends, and we are looking for ways to continue their training and to help them connect with their PTO instructors and friends."

For more information about the PTO or PTW programs or to make a contribution toward technology to assist their participants, contact Tess Benham at (239) 995-2106 Ext. 2228.

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