Until 2016, Gerald Smith had either worked in a sheltered workshop, where he was on a piece-work rate scale, making pennies a part, or in janitorial teams of people with disabilities, again making at or just above minimum wage. This work did not satisfy Gerald, he wanted to be out in the community. While he had a number of opportunities to work independently over the years, he hadn’t found the right fit, which began to affect his self-confidence and attitude overtime. He knew he was capable of much more.
In July 2012, St. John’s of Tennessee began its shift away from the traditional facility-based model to a 100% community-based model of day and employment services. This shift had a huge impact on Gerald’s life allowing him to become more self-sufficient. Gerald left the workshop in 2016 and began work at E-Pak in Union City, TN, where he had to master news skills at a competitive level. He enjoyed the challenge and it gave him the opportunity to earn real wages for real work. Gerald started by assembling small parts for lawn mower engines, but has expanded his work to include aspects of quality control on three other jobs. Through SJCS, he is paired with a job coach, who has been impressed with the changes in Gerald. His attitude has improved, socializes often with his co-workers, and now feels he has a job with purpose. The owner and manager of E-Pak, Charlotte Erwin, said, “I am impressed with not only how consistent Gerald is in making it to work every day but that he produces consistently and never complains about what is asked of him.”
Gerald lives independently and needs an income to pay his bills. About working at E-Pak, he said “I have made new friends, worked on new things, and have been able to buy some things I couldn’t buy before. I have put money in a savings account for emergencies, for times we don’t work, and maybe to take a trip sometime.”
This story of comes from TeneseeWorks and Dwayne Web, Director of Day and Employment Services