Rely on these Riverview workers

OAK HARBOR Bagging groceries, stocking shelves and changing light bulbs hardly sounds like anyone's
Sarah Weber
May 24, 2010



Bagging groceries, stocking shelves and changing light bulbs hardly sounds like anyone's dream job.

But there's no other work David Salyers would rather do.

Salyers has been a grocery clerk at Community Markets in Oak Harbor for eight years.

"The customers love him. He works hard for us," said store manager Lester Weatherwax. "I can't imagine him not being here."

You'd hardly notice that Salyers has a mental disability.

The 34-year-old works at the store through a partnership with Riverview Industries, a non-profit organization that provides employment for people with disabilities.

Most of the 150 workers in the program have jobs in the organization's workshop. They are contracted to do tasks such as shipping and receiving, document shredding, packaging and assembly.

Only five work at outside businesses in Ottawa County.

That's a number supported employment coordinator Michelle Ish would like to increase.

In the past six months, Ish has made a push to get more Riverview Industries workers employed at community businesses. She said she was inspired by a similar program in Wood County, where 200 of the 300 people enrolled in the program are working in the community.

"I came back and realized that only five of 150 people were working in the community here," she said. "It's frustrating."

She said she has been promoting the program at public meetings, asking community and business leaders to do what they can to get more Riverview Industries workers placed in jobs.

"What I'm really looking to them for is to think about us when they are going to the these new business openings," Ish said.

She said she has had some interest from Ottawa County businesses, but so far no new jobs have opened.

Disabled workers benefit companies by being a reliable source of labor for low-level jobs that typically have a high turnover rate, Ish said. Workers can clean, answer phones, do laundry and perform a number of other hands-on tasks.

Riverview Industries provides a job coach to train and help new employees at no cost to businesses. The job coaches stay with the employees until both the workers and the businesses are comfortable.

Tom Leaser, director of environmental service maintenance at Riverview Healthcare Campus, said he was leery about employing 20-year-old Scott Rider.

But in the year the young man has been there, he has been an eager and energetic employee, Leaser said.

"He's been an asset to us," Leaser said. "He is well liked by the staff and well liked by the residents."

He said he would have no problem employing another Riverview worker.

Harold Gilleland, 42, has worked as a dishwasher at Port Clinton's Second Street Diner twice a week for three months. He said working at the restaurant is more challenging than the sheltered workshop.

"I wanted to get out in the community and prove to Riverview that I can do something," he said.

Gilleland said he enjoys going to his job at the diner and still works one day a week at the workshop. He hasn't missed a day of work in more than two years.

Ish said one advantage of employing disabled workers is they have a much higher attendance rate than average employees.

She said Salyers goes to work at the grocery store so consistently he had to be convinced to finally take a vacation.

But more importantly, Ish said, community employment gives the workers a chance to develop some financial independence and establish a sense of pride.

Gilleland said he it makes him feel good to be working.

"I give credit to my mom," he said. "She always wanted her kids to make the best for themselves."

For information on employing Riverview Industries workers, contact Michelle Ish at 419-898-5250, ext. 321.