Individuals with Disabilities Make a Difference in our Community

National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) takes place every October to celebrate people with disabilities and the positive impact they make in the workplace and communities, and their contribution to the national economy. October is also Down Syndrome Awareness month and combined, we at Richcroft believe we have a lot to be thankful for this upcoming month.

Being an employee in any organization requires many attributes, including hard work, enthusiasm, and determination. While having a disability may mean that working may prove challenging and/ or different, almost all the same attributes apply. Some organizations have openly seen the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities and have even seen an increase in profitability, competitive advantage, and ability awareness. Richcroft is proud to share that we guide our individuals, who would like to volunteer, to experience the workplace first hand through our personal supports program. And we have seen some amazing results.

Matthew, along with the support of his previous support staff member Vicki, has participated in multiple volunteering opportunities locally and within the community including Civic Works, Chesapeake Downs Syndrome Association, and Meals on Wheels. Currently, he is helping out in the Richcroft office. Vicki has noticed a positive change in Matthew’s social skills and is proud to state that he has really “come out of his shell” and is now “blossoming”- wonderful news to hear, especially since Matthew also has Down Syndrome and hasn’t let that block his goals of helping out. Vicki has also seen a huge change in Matthew’s ability to be more assertive because he now “communicates his wants and needs with more ease and enjoys new environments and social experiences that he may have found difficult in the past.”

All our individuals are supported by our personal supports staff who take extra care to customize their care plans according to the individual’s needs and wants. They go the extra mile to ensure that the individuals they support are leading happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives and that they maintain their semblance of normality through learning skills to be independent and confident. Individuals like Matthew may have been impacted by the pandemic but, with our staff’s support, we have tried to not let that dampen his spirits.

Matthew, who has worked with Vicki for about 3 years, is just one of our many individuals who relish community work. When asked what he enjoys most about volunteering, he happily stated that he enjoys “learning new skills” and practicing his “people-socialization skills.” He also added that he likes “meeting new people” and that volunteering provided a “good opportunity to practice good manners.”

Finding volunteer positions is mostly done by our support staff but we also encourage family members of individuals we support to share any resources or other volunteer occasions they may know about. Opportunities may also emerge from relationships that have developed naturally in the community ( through churches, neighbors, and local organizations like ‘Tabitha’s house’, etc.). Occasionally, neighborhood events such as park clean-ups take place and they require volunteers- another way for our individuals to offer their time and get stuck in. Volunteering opportunities are endless and we are fortunate to have access to many resources online that also provide details on volunteering events in Maryland, such as Maryland Nonprofits, Volunteer Match, and Volunteer Maryland.

Volunteering not only enables our individuals to socialize and meet new people but also gives them the chance to practice the skills that they’ve learned so well. Shirley, another individual whom we support here at Richcroft also enjoys volunteering and says that a highlight has been that “Everyone was very patient with me”- a sign that having people with disabilities enter the workforce is beneficial for all involved as it increases awareness, tolerance, and acceptance. She currently volunteers at a local hotel where she helps out with housekeeping tasks. Both Shirley and Matthew agree that they would recommend volunteering to anyone curious to try as it is, “fun to be with other people” and that “It will make you feel good to help out.”

National Disability Employment Awareness Month is a wonderful way to remember that individuals with disabilities can still make a difference. At Richcroft, we pride ourselves on seeing the ability in all whom we support and our staff are relentless in their efforts to make all our individuals feel comfortable and special. To find out more about what we do and how Richcroft supports families and individuals with disabilities, feel free to reach out to us here.