Woody takes a break during a shift a Giant.
Meet “Woody”, a 26 year-old participant in the JEVS hireAbility program. hireAbility is an affiliate agency of JEVS Human Services that offers an empowering, customized employment program to assist individuals living with a disability or chronic disease, by preparing them for competitive employment and community integration. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Woody identifies himself as a person with a learning disability.
Affectionately referred to as a ‘gentle giant’ by friends and family, Woody is always smiling, has an excellent memory, and a kind heart. He is very organized and helps out with the chores in his family’s home. He loves going to the gym for exercise, likes walking around in his community, using the computer, reading books, and spending time with his family.
Among his many other interests, Woody enjoys caring for animals. Pet parent to a turtle named Foley, Woody has gained a lot of experience caring for animals. For several years he volunteered at the Philadelphia Zoo as an animal handler. And, he volunteered at the Chamounix Horse Stables where he groomed, fed, and maintained the stalls for up to 35 horses. While the Covid pandemic has paused his time working at the local animal shelter, he’s looking forward to actively volunteering with animals again in the future.
After connecting with JEVS Human Services, Woody pursued internships with Central Bark Doggy Day Care and ACCT Philly to gain experience and sharpen his professional skills before entering paid work.
For nearly a year, Woody has been happily employed at a local Giant supermarket working an average of three days a week. Whether its stocking shelves, bagging groceries in the checkout line, or loading items into a customer’s car, with the on-the-job-support of his JEVS hireAbility job coach, Mr. Don, Woody tackles whatever is asked of him. He is well-liked by co-workers, known by customers, and will greet you with a fist bump.
Woody’s father talks about the benefits of his paid employment with the support of hireAbility.
“Working helps Woody’s self-esteem – he has a younger brother who also works. Woody loves people and has a lot of energy, so this has been really good for him.”
He also shares this advice for families managing an ASD diagnosis, “Early intervention is critical”.
“We are incredibly grateful to work with community partners like Giant that provide meaningful employment opportunities. We are so proud of Woody’s success and deeply proud of our veteran, Don, who has been empowering and supporting people with disabilities to work in the community of their choice and help local business build inclusive workforces for almost 30 years”, says Julia Blackwell, Director, JEVS hireAbility.
JEVS hireAbility currently has programs in Pennsylvania for adults, and in New Jersey for both students and adults. hireAbility provides a centralized source of current job openings, customized matching of applicant skills and interests to job openings, support services during the placement process and follow-up after employment and education in the job search process and programs to help applicants assess their employability.