JAMES WAS REFERRED to Goodwill’s Supported Employment program by Michigan Rehabilitation Services for assistance in securing a job. Goodwill Job Developer Tabatha Glezman worked one-on-one with James to find a position that would be just the right fit.
To acclimate James to the world of work, and help him develop “soft skills” such as communication and teamwork, Tabatha collaborated with several organizations to carve out some volunteer opportunities for James.
“Autism sometimes makes it hard for me to interact with others, but does not keep me from working hard at all,” James said.
“It does not hold him back,” Tabatha said. “It is sometimes difficult for him to talk to people. We are there to assist with those initial interactions and to help guide him through the job-seeking process and in meeting new people.”
James was successfully placed in a job at a commercial farm but transportation was an issue. James does not drive and there was no public transportation available.
Oceana Foods is fruit processing plant in the quiet small town of Shelby; just a 20-minute walk from James’ house. They produce dried fruit from frozen fruit, including cherries, blueberries, pomegranates, and cranberries all year round.
“I came in to talk with them about James and they agreed to give him a chance,” Tabatha said. “They tried him out and it worked out very well.”
James works full-time; sometimes up to 48-hours a week during the busy season.
“I basically sort fruit; taking out any foreign material or pits,” James said. “The people here are friendly, I walk to work, and at the end of the week I get a good paycheck.”
“It is a very important job. We strive for quality, and that is exactly what he is doing,” said Oceana Foods Purchasing and Safety Manager Jeff Tanner. “James is punctual, he’s here every day, and he does a great job. It can be noisy out there, it can be hot out there, and he just seems to plug away.”
- Jeff Tanner, Purchasing and Safety Manager
A division of Cherry Central, Oceana Foods is a dried fruit producer located in Shelby. Using frozen cherries, blueberries, cranberries, and pomegranates, the company manufactures dried fruit. The product is sold under a number of retail brands and wholesalers for use in products such as granola bars and cereals.