James is a person who has IDD and blindness. He started with Koinonia Enterprise’s (KE) employment services department in 2017.  At the time, James was employed at a large seafood chain restaurant as a dishwasher only working 8 hours a week, and he needed a job with more hours to support himself. He began working with Career Coordinator Annmarie, and she became his biggest advocate.

James faced many challenges, including having to take long bus rides using public transportation to develop his job skills. He had to stay motivated when he was hired at a pizza shop by a manager, and then suddenly let go because the owner didn’t like him.  During all this time, Annmarie kept James focused on his job search, creating a video resume to showcase his skills as a dishwasher and pizza maker – and it paid off!

With the help of Annmarie and the team at KE, James landed a temporary job at a catering and uniform company at the Cleveland Zoo. The job was only supposed to last for the zoo season, but James showed so much perseverance and dedication to his job, that he was hired on permanently as their sole dishwasher. His managers say that James is one of the hardest and most dedicated workers they have ever known.  Because of Annmarie and the team at KE’s unstoppable belief in James – and because of his hard work, he overcome the barriers to employment he faced and found a steady job at a place he loves.

James’s supervisor Darryl talks about what it’s like to work with James

That part of the story – James finding a job that appreciated his talent and abilities while providing him with a secure future, would be great in and by itself, but it’s the rest of the story that is truly remarkable.

Shortly after she began working with James, Annmarie realized he was homeless. He was couch surfing from place to place, hoping he could find somewhere to sleep at night. He needed that job making more money so he could survive and find his own place to live. Annmarie rallied support for James with other employees at Koinonia, submitting a request to our employee sponsored fund – Thanks to Friends, for rent and security deposit for an apartment. She rallied her friends, her church, and anyone she met to help find him furniture, dishes, and a bed. She worked with James to create a budget and helped him setup his new home.  Today, James makes enough money at his job to pay for his rent and utilities. He can finally return home after a hard day of work to his own place.  Annmarie embraced the NADSP Code of Ethics for Advocacy, and applied it to every aspect of James’s life!  We are so proud that she is a Koinonia Career Coordinator.

If you are at the Cleveland Zoo visiting the Rainforest this year, think of James! He’s hard at work back in the kitchen helping zoo visitors have a wonderful dining experience.

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