This month, we are celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month. GoodShred® is a program of Goodwill Industries of Kentucky that employs Kentuckians who face a variety of challenges in finding and keeping a job, including those with developmental disabilities, learning disabilities, and mental illness.
Working at GoodShred gives employees the ability to learn or refine a variety of transferable job skills, including customer service, truck driving, time management, and machine operation.
Thomas, who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1993, has been working part-time as a production sorter for GoodShred for nearly four years.
“I like the atmosphere at GoodShred because I work with people who understand my situation and don’t judge me,” Thomas said. “I have a strong support system. If I am having a problem, I feel comfortable talking to the management team or my job coach.”
Since beginning work at GoodShred, Thomas has been enrolled in Goodwill’s community employment program, where employees work one-on-one with job counselors to set and achieve goals.
“At first, I was coaching Thomas on how to deal with unkind customers,” said Cathy Vawter, community employment specialist.
“I have an illness where my moods swing up and down,” said Thomas. “My first inclination is to get upset with customers, even though I naturally have a polite demeanor.”
Prior to working for GoodShred, Thomas was employed for ten years through the same company before being let go.
“It didn’t end well,” he explained. “My termination was a direct result of the behavior that my illness caused. I couldn’t sit still and I had racing thoughts, which are now controlled by medication.”
Thomas was unemployed for 13 months before being referred to Goodwill through Vocational Alternatives.
“GoodShred is a good fit for me, because I just can’t work in a conventional setting,” Thomas said. “My job is repetitive, and although that might sound boring, it’s what I need. Every day, I know what I have to do. I don’t have to focus on more than one task on a time, which is perfect for me, because multi-tasking flusters me. Now that I finally feel stable in a workplace, I can focus on hobbies outside of work.”
Thomas participates in living history reenactments and is currently writing a historical fiction novel.
“I’ve always been interested in history, and writing a novel allows me to teach it accurately, in a non-boring way,” he explained.
Cathy added, “I read Thomas’ novel, and as an avid reader, I was very impressed. Not only is the writing of high quality, but it takes a lot of focus and discipline to write a full book. I’m very proud of him.”