“I prepare the supplies that our teachers use,” says JESPY House client Dawn O., who has been employed at a Livingston day care center for nearly 18 years. “I also help with the children’s snacks and getting them ready for nap time.”

Dawn is one of more than 200 clients that JESPY’s WREE (Work Readiness & Employment Engagement) program and its Job Coaches have guided and counseled toward job training, volunteerism, and employment. Located in South Orange, JESPY services clients with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

JESPY clients work or volunteer in industries that include manufacturing, retail, food, law offices, insurance, cosmetology, senior care, and more. They work in Essex, Union, Hudson, and Morris counties.

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Some clients have been working full time within the Maplewood/South Orange School system, in companies such as Prudential, and at day care and senior centers for many years. Other job sites include Walmart, UPS, Home Depot, Qdoba, Target, Newark Museum, Whole Foods, and various local businesses. JESPY clients have successfully travelled to and from work, been valuable contributors to their industries, and been recognized for their accomplishments.

JESPY’s WREE department works in conjunction with other JESPY departments (case management, clinical services, and the Day Habilitation Program) to keep clients engaged and motivated to accomplish their goals. Participation in pre-employment training sites at local community businesses enables clients to gain insight into work interests, learn about employer expectations, and gain employable skills.

“For some clients, this is their initiation into the work world,” says JESPY Executive Director Audrey Winkler. “For others, training sites build their focus on job development and allows them to establish vocational goals.”

Increasing the number of training sites also builds education and awareness in the business community about the value of hiring individuals with disabilities. Employers see first-hand the skills and abilities of the individuals seeking a chance at employment and financial independence.

Local businesses have the opportunity to collaborate with JESPY by providing training and job opportunities for JESPY clients and other adults with Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities. JESPY’s search for new training sites and employment opportunities is continual. Some of the sought-after positions for clients include office/administration, food service, warehouse/stock, and maintenance tasks.

Business owners and entrepreneurs can do their part by becoming a mentor to a job seeker; providing a resume critique; offer interview tips or a mock interview; or scheduling a tour of your company for career exploration. JESPY’s goals are to help clients gain valuable work skills and job experience as well as give them opportunities to earn additional money for spending and living expenses.

JESPY House also services clients in the areas of recreation, athletics, Community-based supports, behavioral health, activities of daily living and most importantly, advancing independence. To learn more, visit jespy.org.