People with Disabilities

When Matthew Parker graduated high school he did as many grads do, and dreamed of what his future career path would look like. He had goals and ambitions; knowing that eventually he wanted to work with animals in the community. However, he felt like he was below sea level, staring up at very high mountains between him and his dream.

An intimidated, young Matthew with Asperger Syndrome—now known as Autism Spectrum Disorder—and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) started volunteering, hoping that it would turn into employment. “My very first working job was over at Atria. They had me clean dishes, but they decided not to hire me because I was having a hard time multi-tasking, communicating and adapting to changes,” remembered Matthew, “I really struggled quite a bit when I was younger.”

Matthew remained determined to succeed as he found employment at PRIDE Industries. In a specialized environment for individuals with disabilities, Matthew found supports that he never had before. He practiced basic soft skills necessary for employment, such as good hygiene. “They designed a worksheet for me with visual hints so I could get better about having cleaner hands and less germs,” said Matthew.

A case manager at PRIDE saw immense potential within Matthew. “I quickly realized that Matthew was so capable,” said Dawn Horwath. “We could give him any task and he could do it.”

PRIDE tapped into many resources throughout the years to prove to the community what a capable employee he is. He participated in multiple PRIDE operated External Situational Assessments (ESA)—trial community jobs to assess workers’ capabilities. In 2005 he completed Personal Vocational and Social Adjustment (PVSA) services—person-centered training to overcome barriers including communication, assertiveness, anger management, etc. “It was amazing to see such incredible growth and determination in Matthew with each step,” said Dawn, “It has been a long journey, but we never gave up on him.”

As someone who previously needed repeated patterns and routine, he was finally adapting to a variety of job responsibilities and conquering barriers one by one. “I used to have a hard time when things changed all of a sudden,” Matthew reminisced, “but now I have learned how to handle it and I am much more flexible.”

A speech and language counselor, Dyann Castro-Wehr, partnered with PRIDE to help Matthew overcome communication barriers. “Dyann has been great at helping me,” said Matthew, “sometimes I would tell her about a situation and she could figure out a little trick to help me overcome it.” Dyann created an anger meter for Matthew to become aware of his feelings and express himself in the best way possible.

Each day of Matthew’s journey at PRIDE was a stepping stone to his employment in the community. Community employment brought new successes and new disappointments, but now he’s applying his communication and problem solving skills—something that has been beneficial in many facets of his life, especially as he adjusts to newly married life.

Matthew has been successfully working in the kitchen at Cascades of Grass Valley, a retirement community, for a year and a half. PRIDE Employment Services still work with him to ensure his success continues. “It makes me feel so relieved,” Matthew said about his PRIDE job coach meetings, “because I have a much better support system than I did when I first started out.” Together Matthew and his job coach have weekly discussions to work out any difficulties he might have at work.

As Matthew reflected back on how far he’s come, he proudly said, “I feel pretty good about myself. I have a great life going for me right now, but I definitely have a goal in mind so I’m going to keep working hard to get there.”

Congratulations Matthew on conquering one more stepping stone. You’re on your way to your dream job!

By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, rehab/marketing intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters.

Need employment placement support?

Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.

“I feel pretty good about myself. I have a great life going for me right now, but I definitely have a goal in mind so I’m going to keep working hard to get there.”

Jeanine McDonald still treasures her memories of wandering the aisles of the local Bel-Air grocery store when she was a young girl with her mother. The familiar environment, trusted quality and exceptional customer service motivated her to pursue a job as a Bel-Air courtesy clerk.


Jeanine’s epilepsy, causing spontaneous seizures, makes it difficult for her to find and keep a job. In the year 2000, Jeanine was referred to PRIDE Industries and began working with our Employment Services program to help her achieve her employment of choice.


With the help of job developer, Caryl Balko, Jeanine identified skills and abilities valued by an employer’s such as Bel-Air. “The guidance from Caryl was a huge success for me” said Jeanine, “I do not think I would’ve gotten the job without her.”


PRIDE job developers work one-on-one with individuals like Jeanine to match their abilities and interests to the requirements and needs of local employers. Caryl provided Jeanine with the training necessary to help ace her interview and land her dream job at Bel-Air.


For several years, Jeanine loved wearing her Bel-Air nametag and bagging groceries.


“I absolutely loved that job,” said Jeanine. “The people were so great to me there and I loved going to work.”  Collecting a weekly paycheck provided her with a newfound sense of purpose and accomplishment.


Bel-Air quickly realized the tremendous value that their new employee had to offer.  Mystery shoppers frequently visit businesses posing as customers to evaluate the service they receive. Jeanine was mystery shopped numerous times and always received remarkable evaluation reports, for which her store was thrilled to give her extra recognition.


Unfortunately, within recent years Jeanine’s seizures have become more severe and more frequent. They began to interfere with her work responsibilities and she no longer felt that she could meet work requirements. Although Bel-Air was willing to work with her unique circumstances, Jeanine was not comfortable providing unreliable work, so she made the difficult decision to leave her dream job.


Right away, she knew where she wanted to go. She wanted to be in a comfortable, safe environment with close friends. She also needed an employer who would understand and make accommodations for her seizures. “At PRIDE I knew exactly what to expect and I wanted to be a part of it. I feel like family here,” said Jeanine. She has been working here at PRIDE for the past year where she still enjoys a sense of purpose and accomplishment at the end of each day without jeopardizing her safety.


Her supervisors are trained and accustomed to working with individuals with disabilities like Jeanine’s. After a seizure, Jeanine would usually be sent home for the day in community employment. However, at PRIDE she is still given the option to continue working with accommodations and modified duties, if she chooses to. This gives her the security to earn a full paycheck even as her condition progresses.


Jeanine is hopeful about her path for the future. In time, her seizures might become controllable again, and she would be welcomed back to her job at Bel-Air. However, PRIDE is honored to provide her with a meaningful alternative.


We are so proud of Jeanine for her hard work both in the community and here at PRIDE!

By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, rehab/marketing intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters.

Need employment placement support?

Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.

“At PRIDE I knew exactly what to expect and I wanted to be a part of it. I feel like family here.”

Finding a new career after leaving the workforce due to illness or disability can often be a daunting task, which is why PRIDE Industries offers employment help to individuals who are facing obstacles in their job pursuits. 

Joey Guillot is a carpenter at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Fort Polk in Louisiana. After a long period of unemployment, Joey found a new place and career at PRIDE. To get to this point, he worked with much determination to overcome numerous barriers. His story is an inspiration.

Employment Services to Help Overcome Obstacles

As a result of an unaddressed learning disability, Joey became discouraged as a young student and dropped out of high school during his freshman year.  However, he was able to find work in the community and build a self-sufficient life.


Years later, Joey developed peripheral neuropathy, a nerve condition that causes weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet and other parts of the body. His condition worsened to the point of near-paralysis, and, he was forced to leave the workforce in 2001. After the unexpected death of his wife of 25 years, Joey also began to struggle with depression and alcohol abuse.


As his neuropathy began to improve, Joey decided to re-enter the workforce and search for a new career. Determined to reach his goal, he applied for employment services with Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS) in April 2014.


Joey worked closely with his LRS counselors to manage his depression and maintain sobriety. Even so, searching for a new career was not an easy task; Joey struggled to get an interview and was unable to complete a GED program or learn another trade.  Fortunately, in 2014 LRS referred Joey to a job training program at PRIDE Industries’ contract at Ft. Polk.

Job Training & Placement Services for People with Disabilities

PRIDE ended up being the perfect opportunity for Joey; after job placement and four weeks of on-the-job training, he was hired as a general maintenance worker in the carpentry shop. 


“PRIDE Industries has been a blessing to this region because they give people with disabilities an opportunity to find meaningful employment,” says LRS Counselor Don Green. “There are few employers in Beauregard and Vernon Parish (a rural area) that provide opportunities for earning good wages as well as accommodations for employees with disabilities.”


To help Joey succeed in his job, PRIDE’s rehabilitation staff provides counseling and job coaching. They have also worked with him on improving his literacy skills, and Joey is currently earning his GED. 


“Joey is a very hard and determined worker who does not allow his disability to hold him back from accomplishing anything he wants. He is capable of completing any task that is set in front of him,” says Rehabilitation Counselor Sonja Matthews. Joey’s hard work and perseverance impressed his supervisors; when a carpenter position became available, he applied and was hired on October 3, 2015. Joey has continued to thrive in his new role and is currently aiming to become a carpenter lead.


With support, Joey was able to turn his life around. Steady employment, and along with a supportive network which included his father, church community, and his LRS counselor, Joey has managed his depression and successfully maintained sobriety. He also recently married Mrs. Angela Pratt in October 2015 and is greatly satisfied with his new position and positive outlook on life.

PRIDE Industries offers job placement services and employment help to people with disabilities, foster youth, veterans, and others who are working to overcome barriers to a fulfilling career. 

Need employment placement support?

Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.
Joey Guillot

“Joey is a very hard and determined worker who does not allow his disability to hold him back from accomplishing anything he wants.”

Alice Kimble is celebrating her 17th year working at Lighthouse Child Development Center. Her journey has not been easy. However, she has never allowed challenges or employment barriers to diminish her sense of purpose, her pride, and most importantly, her contagious smile.


“To me, we all have a disability, the only difference is you can physically see mine,” said Alice.

Focusing on Her Abilities Rather Than Barriers

All her life Alice has enjoyed working with children. Her employment at Lighthouse, a daycare facility and private kindergarten for children ages 6 weeks to 6 years old, gives her the opportunity to teach and interact with them each day. 


“I like children’s natural curiosity and honesty. They look beyond the wheelchair at me, Ms. Alice, as a person that can give them a ride that day. They’re not looking at what I can’t do; they’re looking at what I can do,” said Alice. 


Throughout the last 17 years, Alice has spent time with each age group and realized that she especially enjoys working with the older children who can ask her questions. Her favorite activity is giving rides to children on her chair, but she also spends time consoling babies, feeding children, and monitoring playtime outside.


Alice reminisced about one instance in which a 4-year-old boy became curious about why Ms. Alice doesn’t walk. She explained to him, “My muscles aren’t strong enough to help me walk, but yours are.” He shouted gladly, “Yeah, mine are!” Then he offered to trade his legs with Ms. Alice so she could walk around like him.


Alice’s employer, Sandi Ford, recognizes that Alice adds value at Lighthouse with more than just her job skills. “The children have learned respect for individuals with wheelchairs and because of Alice they have been taught to help others who are not always able to help themselves,” said Sandi Ford.

Alice and Gloria
Alice with Gloria, her job coach

“So to me they’re more than just job coaches, they become your friends too,” said Alice.

Ongoing Employment Support from PRIDE

PRIDE Industries has a long history of supporting Alice in her employment at Lighthouse. PRIDE offers many life- and career-related services to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment. These include internships, on the job training and support, independent living services, and job search assistance.


Gloria, Alice’s job coach, has visited her for years. On a weekly basis, they talk about and solve any challenges she might be facing at work.


“Gloria is my sounding board,” explained Alice. “If there was a really big problem and I didn’t feel comfortable going alone to my employer saying this is what I need or this is what I would like, then I know I could call Gloria up and she’d step in and help me talk to them.”


PRIDE’s job coaches provide one-on-one support to help people like Alice find confidence in the workplace. They listen to employees’ struggles and successes while providing advice on how to deal with conflicts, approach a manager, make certain tasks more accessible, and other issues. 

Inspiring Others to Find Meaningful Employment

Alice beautifully exemplifies PRIDE’s vision for each individual. She desires to give back to the community and fulfill a need for purpose in her life. 


“I’ve always known that people are always going to have to help me, regardless of how old I am. My biggest goal in life was to really just work because I wanted to give back to society like they gave to me,” she said.


And Ms. Alice has proven herself to be a very valuable asset inspiring others in her community. She proudly related a story about a young girl she cared for during her first few years at Lighthouse, who told Ms. Alice that she wanted to grow up and be a doctor so she could help Ms. Alice and others like her. All these years later, this now young woman carries with her the precious memories of her childhood inspiration as she currently studies at San Francisco State to become a medical doctor.

PRIDE Industries' services

PRIDE provides services, from pre-employment preparation to ongoing support on the job. We will walk with you every step of your journey, helping you overcome employment barriers and ensuring you find the career path you desire.

Charlie’s day begins at three o’clock in the morning, a time when most of us are still asleep. While the moon is still shining, Charlie prepares to make a two-mile walk to catch the first light rail train. He then catches a bus which connects him to a PRIDE Industries shuttle. After a four hour journey, Charlie is finally delivered to work by seven in the morning. These are the lengths that Charlie goes through, twice a day, because he loves his job.


Charles “Charlie” Curtner, 65, has been working in the PRIDE Industries cafeteria since 2001. He is a vital member of the cafeteria team. His job requires him to clean tables, restock refrigerated beverages and food items, greet customers, and be a backup cashier when needed. Charlie’s work ethic, attention to detail, love for people, and his sense of humor have helped him be successful on the job.


Charlie’s brother introduced him to PRIDE in 1993. He applied for a dishwasher position at a PRIDE military base contract. “You’re hired!” Charlie recalls excitedly. This was only the starting point for Charlie.


Before PRIDE, Charlie had worked for years as a dishwasher in the community. Once at PRIDE, he held a variety of packaging, assembly, and order fulfillment jobs. Still, Charlie wanted more for himself. With support, Charlie found his place with PRIDE’s cafeteria team.


“Charlie is a very friendly person that always greets people and welcomes them to the cafeteria with a warm smile,” says Olivia Jones, Charlie’s supervisor. “He is very dedicated, hardworking, and is always willing to take the extra step to make sure he is doing his job well.”


Charlie has a disability but prefers to focus on his abilities. He lives independently and has for most of his adult life. Charlie does share his home with his cat named Sam, who was abandoned as a kitten, and named after Yosemite Sam, the cartoon character. And while Charlie loves cartoons, if you ask about retirement his response is: “Uh-uh, stay home and watch the idiot box and those goofy shows, oh no way! Wouldn’t that be boring?”


Charlie is very dedicated to his work, a place where his abilities are recognized. At PRIDE he has made friends and can be himself. He finds purpose in his job and often asks his supervisor: “What would you do without me?” Olivia’s response is, “I am not sure, but we do not want to find out.”


Never shy to share his life or funny side, Charlie often begins a conversation with, “Can you believe it?” He then proudly follows up with, “People want to know my secret,” as to how he remains youthful and in excellent health. We still do not know his secret.


While Charlie is no spring chicken, as the saying goes, he does not let age slow him down. Although his secret has not been revealed, he may have given us a clue: keep moving. Charlie’s drive comes from working. “Just keep working,” he says. “Who wants to retire? I have been here 23 years.”


Thank you, Charlie, for your dedication to PRIDE Industries and the cafeteria. We are so glad you are part of the PRIDE family.

Need employment placement support?

Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.

“Just keep working. Who wants to retire? I have been here 23 years.”

Disability does not discriminate; it can affect anyone at any time through illness or injury. Hilary Vail, a PRIDE Industries job coach, was left with a permanent physical disability due to an injury. Overcoming initial, everyday challenges was just the beginning of her life with disability.

Hilary’s life changed in the blink of an eye after taking a fall. Soon after, she was laid off from her job with a local nonprofit. “My life completely changed, and I could not believe it. It was a shock. I did not expect to fall down the stairs.”

As a single mother of two young boys, Caleb (12) and Nate (9), she knew her family was counting on her. Hilary sought vocational and physical rehabilitation to help her overcome the new challenges. While working with the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), she decided to go back to school. Hilary enrolled in a health care training program to become a certified billing and coding specialist.

“As a single mom, I needed to provide for my kids,” says Hilary. “I needed to find something with stability and room to advance.” It was easier said than done. After graduation, Hilary found it nearly impossible to land a job in the field without a minimum of six months of hands-on experience. Hilary was devastated. “I kept applying; I even offered to volunteer – and nothing.”

In May 2014, Hilary began working with PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services including attending Job Club meetings. Job Club provides an opportunity for individuals to gain hands-on interviewing and job-seeking practice. Participants learn new skills and receive help in conducting a job search, along with other employment-related training. Hilary was also assigned a PRIDE job developer and job coach to help her in the search.

“After months and months of doing a job search and working with Debbie Tomlinson, a PRIDE job developer, and Brian Edwards, a PRIDE job coach, I began to get discouraged,” says Hilary.

Hilary has significant mobility and physical restrictions due to her disability. There is no surgical cure. Currently, treatment consists of painful cortisone shots and ongoing physical therapy.

Despite her physical limitations, Hilary aspires to lead a typical life and provide for her two boys.

In March 2015, an opportunity became available for Hilary at PRIDE: an internship in the Employment Services Department at PRIDE headquarters.

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program helps individuals with disabilities enter, or re-enter, the workforce. The Program offers up to 250 hours of paid work experience supported by generous donations and grants to PRIDE Industries Foundation. Through the internship, individuals gain resume-building experience while working in a supportive environment.

Hilary excelled in the internship; it was a perfect fit for her skills. Halfway through the Program; a permanent job coach position was offered. Hilary was ecstatic. Finally, this was the opportunity she needed. “I learned so many new skills,” says Hilary. “Meeting new and wonderful people; I could not be happier.”

She became a PRIDE Industries employee in April 2015. “Hilary has learned the skills of job coaching and assessments,” says Debbie. “Hilary is supporting our clients with employment preparation services – just as she did.”

As a job coach, Hilary works with community clients on her caseload. She provides employment support services and helps people with disabilities improve their skills on the job. Some of the individuals she supports were in Job Club with her. She finds that having an established relationship is an advantage in assisting them, however, for Hilary it feels natural. “I love being able to help,” says Hilary. “That is something that was in me all along, and I like it.” Currently, Hilary has six individuals on her caseload.

Hilary no longer relies on others for financial help. “My kids and I were able to get our own place. I get excited paying my rent,” says Hilary. “To me, it means freedom. I can do it all on my own.”

Stories like Hilary’s remind us that life can change in the blink of an eye. Importantly, we are reminded that we have the power to control our own destiny when provided with support and opportunity. We’re glad that Hilary found her place at PRIDE.

Need employment placement support?

Contact our I AM ABLE Helpline to discuss your options.

“I love being able to help. That is something that was in me all along, and I like it.”