Finding jobs that fit

He comes to work with a smile on his face, and soon transfers that smile to others

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Ryan Feauto wipes down tables at Taco Tico on a recent Tuesday. With help from One Vision’s Community Employment program, Feauto has a job he loves, helping out at one of his favorite restaurants.

Stop by Taco Tico during the busy hours on Tuesday or Thursday and you might see Ryan Feauto’s smiling face as he clears the trays and wipes down the tables.

Feauto has always wanted to work at the restaurant, where he was long known to the staff.

Thanks to the One Vision Community Employment Services and job coach Elizabeth Houser, he’s been on the job now for about six months.

Burritos are definitely a job perk.

Feauto only works a few days a week, but when he’s there he’s sure to bring a smile to his co-workers’ faces.

-Messenger photo by Joe Sutter
Extra hands make lighter work. Ryan Feauto wipes down some trays after bringing them back to the kitchen at Taco Tico. Feauto works during the busy times at the restaurant, helping out the other employees when the kitchen gets hectic. Where years ago people with disabilities often found work in shelter workshops, today One Vision and other organizations help people find work in the community, meeting needs that match their skills.

“We love having him around,” said Taco Tico owner Ben Johnson. “Obviously working in a kitchen it gets pretty stressful, and he’s always very lighthearted.

“Unless he gets hungry, apparently,” Johnson joked.

Feauto has been on the job about six months, thanks to the One Vision Community Employment Services and job coach Elizabeth Houser.

One Vision is dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities and other challenges thrive in life. The employment program in particular helps people find work in the community.

“We took him into Taco Tico and they basically wanted to hire him on the spot,” said One Vision Community Employment Supervisor Kelly Hinds. “So now we support him working there — helping him with his job tasks, making sure he understands what he needs to do.”

Houser is on hand to help Feauto out, but he’s on his own for at least part of his two-hour shift.

“He gets 30 minutes of independence every day. We just bumped it up,” Houser said. “It was 15 minutes. He does so well.”

“The help is good, but it’s more of he makes you feel good when you’re working around him. He always cheers everybody up. That’s the huge plus for us,” Johnson said. “It’s a great deal for us. He comes in, he helps where he can, and I would say it’s more of an emotional support for us.”

Part of what One Vision does is find jobs like this, and people to fill them, Hinds said.

One Vision has Employment Specialists, who work with both the client and the business and community.

“They get to know what they’re interested in, what their abilities are, what they like and don’t like,” Hinds said. “The goal is to help them find a job where, their job description is 100% ‘This is what I love doing, and I’m good at it.'”

Sometimes a business has a job that needs doing, but they wouldn’t hire a full-time person to do it, or even a 20-hour-a-week person. But working with One Vision, employers can find folks who only want to work five hours a week, for example.

Tasks which an existing employee might not enjoy doing can then be given to someone who might enjoy them more and have the skills to do it, helping them all approach that 100% satisfaction, Hinds said.

“Luckily there are people who only want to work five hours a week. Some people aren’t looking for 20-hour-a-week jobs,” she said. “They’d be super happy with just having six hours a week.

“There they can go into work, fill their life with purpose, feel like they are making a difference, earning a paycheck, getting involved in the culture at work, meeting new people, feeling a part of something, and then going home. Being part of their community.”

One Vision’s employment program is expanding. In the past, the organization, which used to be called Opportunity Village, had more of a focus on giving people work in shelter workshops.

“In shelter workshops, it was piece-rated, and they were making less than minimum wage. It’s not right,” Hinds said. “Over the past couple years, we started really focusing on community employment, and moving away from shelter workshops. The philosophy is everybody should work, regardless of disability; they are real people, they should have real jobs, they should make real money.”

Making the change has taken some work.

“I’d say in 2015 we said, ‘We are going to do this,’ and in 2016 and 2017 we finally really had a good grip on what it was,” she said. “Since then in our area, Fort Dodge, Humboldt, Webster City, we’ve helped 36 people get jobs with 25 different employers.”

One Vision as a whole has helped 136 people, she added.

Once employment specialists have worked out what a job will be, a job coach will usually attend employee orientation with the client, Hinds said. They learn how to do the job, so they can provide extra help to the client.

“Some places you are hired, you have one day of orientation, and then you’re out on the floor. I might need more time to process what is asked of me, and also need time to understand why we’re doing it this way,” she said.

One Vision’s employment program isn’t really well known yet, Hinds said. She hopes as it becomes more known, more employers will reach out to them seeking workers.

The program is also expanding its cooperation with schools.

After the Rabiner Treatment Center closed down, its leftover funds were distributed to nonprofits all over Iowa, including $12,000 to One Vision’s employment services.

“That is to get more involved with the schools. With that money we plan on talking to six schools around the area, and letting them know there are services for people with disabilities, or any other barriers they might face,” Hinds said.

Schools know who the young adults are with challenges, and it will help them to know what places like One Vision have to offer.

“Growing up, if I wanted to buy something, my parents would say you have to earn it,” Hinds said. “In order to earn it you need to get a job, or go ask the neighbors if they need anything done. Go outside and pick up sticks, go mow the lawn.

“So the expectation to work was instilled at a young age, and I worry that if there are kids with disabilities — I hope that expectation is still being instilled in them. They are capable of doing so much; they’re capable of having such a purposeful life, and contributing so much to society.”