Changing lives a job at a timePublished 2:02pm Saturday, July 14, 2012
Less than two years ago, Rebecca Oglesby’s parents were worried about their daughter. She was unemployed and rarely had the opportunity to meet new people. She often spent most of her time at home with her parents. The fact that Rebecca has a disability did not help matters.
Today, Rebecca has joined the workforce at Atmore Community Hospital as a janitorial worker, and her mother says she has made many new friends and gained a great sense of responsibility. What happened? Organizations like United Cerebral Palsy and Gulf Coast Enterprises came to town and gave Rebecca a chance at a new life.
And Rebecca is only one example of the many Atmore area residents living with various disabilities who have found a new sense of worth and belonging through the services the two entities offer.
Velvarae Oglesby, Rebecca’s mother, said the change in her daughter has been enormous.
“Rebecca looks forward to going to work every day,” she said. “This has given her something to do that she really enjoys.”
GCE, a division of Baptist Health Care based in Pensacola, Fla., is fairly new to Atmore Community Hospital and the Atmore area.
GCE Senior Operations Executive Russ Schreiner said coming to Atmore was a big opportunity for his company.
“About three years ago (ACH) was making a change in leadership,” Schreiner said. “They gave us the opportunity to take over the housekeeping department.”
The company, which was established in 1986, now employs 2,000 people in ten states and the District of Columbia. Of those 2,000 people, 1,600 have a disability.
“Our mission is to employ people with severe disabilities,” Schreiner said.
GCE contracts out custodial services, food services, administrative support services, facilities management and hospital housekeeping.
Tim McCollum was hired by GCE as project manager at ACH and oversees custodial services.
“There is a large workforce out there of people with disabilities,” McCollum said. “People don’t realize how willing to work they are.”
Stephanie Bell, an employment specialist with UCP, began working in the Atmore area in January of 2011, when the non-profit organization began a program in Escambia County.
“Of people with disabilities, eighty percent want to work, but only ten percent are currently employed,” she said.
Bell’s main focus with UCP is helping individuals with disabilities, including Rebecca, find gainful employment.
“The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services sends me clients,” Bell said. “I have an initial interview, which lasts three to four hours.”
During this interview process, Bell learns the capabilities and interests of her clients.
“This gives me a chance to really get to know the person,” she said.
Bell then puts in applications for her clients at various businesses, and the process begins.
Locally, GCE works closely with UCP to fill job openings.
“I found on GCE’s website where they were hiring at the hospital,” Bell said.
She contacted McCollum about the job opening, and her client was hired. Now McCollum seeks out Bell’s clients for openings at the hospital.
“I have hired three of Stephanie’s clients,” McCollum said.
“When a client of mine is hired for any job, I visit the job to help the client settle into the new position,” Bell said. “I go into the workforce with my client for the first fourteen days to be sure the transition goes smoothly.”
In Rebecca’s case, she now works two to three hours, six days a week at ACH.
Her mother is impressed with GCE and happy that they employ her daughter.
“GCE is a good company for people like Rebecca,” she said. “It gives them opportunities they may not have had otherwise.”
Others in the community have been given similar opportunities as Rebecca. The number of GCE employees in Atmore is growing.
“When we started out in Atmore, there were only eight or nine (employees),” Schreiner said. “Now we have thirteen.”
Clients working for GCE must complete a training session before beginning a job, as well as attend monthly training sessions after being hired.
“We train our employees in infection control, how to use chemicals, how to disinfect, floor care, green cleaning and proper cleaning techniques,” Schreiner said.
Green cleaning is important to GCE. The company uses chemicals that are the most effective and the least harmful.
GCE offers health, dental, vision and life insurance, as well as vacation time and paid holidays, in addition to the paycheck employees receive.
“The thing that has impressed me the most is just seeing the confidence Rebecca has now,” Bell said. “And it’s that way with all of my clients. It’s tremendous seeing the way they have blossomed since they have started working, and GCE has been a major part of that.”
While GCE continues to employ locals with disabilities at ACH, Escambia County’s UCP program is striving to place individuals in various jobs, in multiple fields throughout the county.
For more information on the UCP program, contact Stephanie Bell at (251) 253-2098. GCE officials can be reached at (850) 595-1330 or online at http://www.elakeviewcenter.org/GulfCoastEnterprises/DefaultContent.aspx.