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DSNWK's follow-along program beneficial


Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles highlighting the agencies that receive funding from United Way of Ellis County.

Don't let Shannon Sander's shy demeanor fool you. The goals she has set to work and live independently speak loud and clear.  

Shannon works two part-time jobs -- one as an independent contractor to clean the Kansas Highway Patrol offices and the other as a dishwasher at JD's Chicken. Both of Sander's employers are happy with her work and feel she does an excellent job.  

"She is really the ideal employee. She comes to work every day, does her job well, is always punctual and rarely sick," said Dawn Marlett, owner of JD's Chicken.  

And Sander loves her job. Each day, she gets up and drives herself to each of her jobs.  

"I really like my co-workers and my bosses are great at working around my schedule," she said.

Both jobs were obtained through the support she receives from the Job Placement Follow-along program at Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas. Sander used the support of her employment specialist, Marlene Irwin, who helped her find employment after being out of the workforce for a few years and maintain it by supporting her throughout the following weeks.  

"Shannon needed some help getting back into the workforce, "Irwin said. "We assisted her in finding work by helping her with applications, interviews and we continue to support her at her work site," Irwin said.  

Sander's desire to work also has allowed her to purchase her own home. In 2011, Sander bought a home for herself through the Rural Development program and lives there with her new dog, Bentley.  

The Follow-along program, which receives funding by the United Way of Ellis County, can be looked to as one of the key components of the success Sander has experienced.  

Irwin said without the support of the program, Sander would not be where she is today.  

"Because Shannon has a shy personality, she needs that extra support from us to be successful," Irwin said. "With the Job Placement Follow-along program, she does an excellent job and is very appreciated by her employers."

Sander also believes she owes a lot of thanks to Irwin and the support she has received.  

"Marlene has helped me a lot," Sander said. "She has helped me to get to where I want to be."

DSNWK's Job Placement Follow Along program offers long-term support to individuals who are competitively employed in the community.  This service was developed to allow individuals who are job placed to continue to have on going supports to assist in maintaining their current employment, opportunity to experience advancement in their careers, and to change jobs to secure better pay, hours or benefits. Some of the individuals served need to have a few hours of training when routines change, machines are updated and supervisors change. Some individuals would be overlooked for promotions or raises if they could not update their skills or take on more responsibilities.  

This program allows individuals with disabilities to not only meet their goal of employment but to continue to learn and experience growth in their employment.

DSNWK's Job Placement Follow-along program not only benefits the individuals served but also employers in the communities.  Long-term follow-along can intervene before the individual loses his or her employment. This program reduces the dollars spent on job procurement, cost to train new employees and unemployment or disability payments.