PARAMUS, N.J. — In a world where work ethic is valued, so much that people are choosing to retire later on in their lives, many can attest that a large part of their identity comprises what they do for a living.

So when Passaic’s Maria Moya, who emigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 2003, returned to the supermarket where she had been working circa 2015 as an assistant manager to find out she lost her job following two separate stints on disability, she felt as though her life was over. It was bad enough her legal blindness blocked her from obtaining a driver’s license, her irregular heartbeat needed fixing with a surgical procedure, and her anemia caused her to pass out on occasion. Now, she was dealing with perhaps the biggest blow that could knock the wind out of anyone: being out of work.  

“I just stayed most of the time in my room,” recalled Moya of her eight-week nadir following her dismissal. “I was thinking a lot of things like, ‘Why it happened to me… I didn’t imagine it’s going to happen to me of all the work that I did. Nobody wants to be sick and lose their job.”  

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Having been diagnosed with legal blindness coupled with being down and out, living felt like a chore to a woman who always prided herself on accomplishment. Flashback to when she was living in her native Philippines, she worked for the Embassy of the United States of America to the Philippines in Manilla for two decades applying her accounting and financial management skills. When she lost her job, she felt as though her purpose was lost, despite being a wife, mother and grandmother. In her period of despair, the loss was enough to arouse suicidal thoughts.  

“If I can’t help pay the bills I might as well be gone out of this world,” Moya recalled thinking. “I don’t want to be a problem to my husband, to my kids… I used to have my own money. I don’t want them to spend money on me.”

After spending a couple of months wallowing in her misery, her eye doctor referred her to the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an agency that aims to provide services in the areas of education, employment, independent living and eye health through partnership with persons who are blind or visually impaired and the community. A caseworker then connected Moya to CarePlus Workforce Solutions in Paterson, the corporate headquarters of which are located at 610 Valley Health Plaza in Paramus. A subsidiary of CarePlus NJ, the nonprofit provides employment and training opportunities to the disabled and economically disadvantaged through offering products and services to individual customers and the business community. Since its founding in 1996, CarePlus Workforce Solutions has linked 300 Garden State residents with employment opportunities through partnerships with state and federal organizations. The unemployment rate for individuals living with a disability was 8% in 2018 per the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

“When we look at a lot of statistics when it comes to employment, the disabled struggled the most with finding and retaining jobs,” explains Brigitte D. Johnson, Esq., Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, Care Plus NJ, Inc. “At CarePlus Workforce Solutions, we’re helping to fill that gap. We don’t treat them like they’re disabled. There’s an expectation of performance, that’s why our workers appreciate the job so much. Rarely do we have to write someone up. With us, it’s working with pride.” 

Moya started out doing janitorial work before a position opened up in the laser imaging department that has since given her the fulfillment and personal satisfaction she needs. As a part-time employee, Moya now earns a competitive salary. Every morning, she is shuttled to and from work and is always punctual and dressed for success. At her work station at the Paterson location, a facility site, she uses a special screen in her computer that magnifies the text, allowing her to read invoice numbers clearly. After proving herself in her role since July, Moya has recently taken on additional responsibilities, which have allowed her to tap back into her accounting skills with payroll and assist with bookkeeping. And her eagerness on the job is evident.    

“Her work ethic is impressive,” says Melisha Osorio, operations manager at CarePlus NJ. “She comes and doesn’t waste time. She works from start to finish. We don’t have to micromanager her. When she’s finished, she’ll ask for more. She’s affected if she’s not working.” 

Since she has found herself again in her new job with CarePlus Work Solutions, Moya says she’s not only found another “reason for living” but can supplement her husband’s income. 

“I really didn’t imagine I could still contribute my knowledge to CarePlus,” said Moya of her job-hunting journey. “I try to do my work the best I can.” 

For more on CarePlus Workforce Solutions, visit Careplusnj.org.