GOSHEN — An ADEC employee who will be running the Chicago Marathon this fall is halfway to his goal of securing 26 jobs for people with disabilities.
Steve Germani, ADEC’s marketing and development manager, has been training four months for a project he calls “26 Miles for 26 Jobs.” For every mile he runs at the Oct. 13 race in the Windy City, he hopes to get an ADEC client hired.
His hard work is already paying off. Businesses in Elkhart and St. Joseph counties have hired 13 clients with disabilities.
“It’s right on pace,” Germani said.
Germani has been preparing for the marathon by running four days a week along county roads and the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, increasing his distance each month.
“I think I’m actually starting to become a runner,” he joked.
Katy Gerring, an employment consultant with ADEC, scored the first of the 26 jobs for a client at Data Realty in South Bend.
“For a lot of my clients, it’s really their dream, their life goal to work in the community,” said Gerring, who has worked at ADEC for seven years. “They like the socialization. They like the feeling of contributing to society.”
The Maples at Waterford Crossing in Goshen was an early supporter of the “26 Miles for 26 Jobs” campaign, hiring a pair of ADEC clients to work in the kitchen and dining areas at the senior nursing facility.
“They have been very receptive and very excited about the clients they hired, and generally speaking, we’ve gotten the same response from other employers,” Germani said. “Obviously, time will tell whether or not all of these jobs will stick, but we’ve been really encouraged by the response of the employers and their excitement to get involved. It’s been positive.”
As director of food services, Michael Schreck supervises two ADEC clients who have been working at The Maples for the past month.
“My staff is great with them,” he said. “Everyone is willing to help, teach them and show them how to do things. We like to say they have a bunch of angels in the kitchen to watch over them.”
Schreck has enjoyed the experience of working closely with the ADEC clients.
“I think it’s very rewarding for them as well,” he said. “I think these programs are very, very beneficial to their well-being, happiness and fulfillment in their lives.”
Jaime Leyba, manager at the Nappanee Street Walgreens store in Elkhart, brought an ADEC client on board as a part-time cashier a year and half ago when she worked at the Walgreens store in Dunlap.
“When she first came in, she was very, very nervous, and you could tell,” Leyba said about the newly hired ADEC client. “All of my employees, they really just opened up to her. She needed a little extra training and extra time to understand how things worked, but the other employees were very willing to help.”
It didn’t take long for Leyba’s new employee to get a hang of things.
“She was not afraid to do anything,” she said. “She did what she could to make our customers happy. She greeted every customer with a smile.”
The Dunlap Walgreens store was honored with ADEC’s Outstanding Employer Award in 2012.
“There’s a misconception about people with disabilities,” Leyba said. “Society thinks they can’t perform, but you can overcome that stigma, and they can work just like any other employee and be successful at it.”