Contributed by Marc Andrew Kramer, board member from Medford Chamber of Commerce.
On May 24, 2012, the Medford Chamber of Commerce held its monthly general meeting at Sam’s Club. During the meeting Sam’s Club announced that it has available small business loans. This program would help small businesses, who need a little extra money to help run their business or improve their businesses.
Also at the meeting was Donna Robitaille, Employment Training Specialist in the Community Services Program of Helen Keller National Center. Ms. Robitaille explained to those in attendance that Helen Keller National Center is an organization that assists those individuals with hearing and vision impairments (called consumers by the organization). More specifically, Consumers are given resources, materials and services to assist them in their daily lives and to gain or hone their skills in the workplace setting.
Ms. Robitaille, explained that the Community Services Program specifically assists with the vocational aspect. Ms. Robitaille gave examples of how Helen Keller National Center assisted consumers that some companies would have overlooked, but have become valued employees. In one example, Ms. Robitaille explained that a consumer was working for Applebee's for over six years doing food preparation. In another example, the consumer was an attorney, who recently was admitted to the practice of law and is interning at a prestigious law firm in the city, where he performs well.
Perhaps even more amazing was the example wherein a consumer was hired to repair machinery. That consumer would use her elbow against the machine and her hand against her cheek to feel the vibrations. She would then repair the machine with the same tools that anyone else would use, the difference being that the tools were marked with special inexpensive stickers (called bumps by Ms. Robitaille) so that the consumer could identify the tool and put it back where it belonged in her workspace
Helen Keller National Center helps people of all ages and backgrounds. Ms. Robitaille explained that in some cases the companies are just asked to provide vocational experience for the consumer. Later on the companies tend to hire the consumers because they see just how great the consumer is at the assigned jobs. Ms. Robitaille explained that during that vocational experience time, the companies did not pay the consumer to perform the work, who were instead paid by Helen Keller National Center. This is a great benefit to all. Helen Keller National Center stays with the consumer during the entire time of the vocational training. If the employee works 9-5 then right along side of them is a training specialist from Helen Keller National Center. If the company hires the consumer, then a training specialist remains with the consumer, but the time is reduce over time to case management (i.e. checking in on the consumer at least one to two times a month).
Ms. Robitaille also explained that Helen Keller National Center even provides various tools to the consumer and the company to be used during the vocational and/or employment. Ms. Robitaille, although originally attending the meeting to introduce Helen Keller National Center to explain that consumers need workplace opportunities, let those in attendance know that Helen Keller National Center also wants to get the word out of its existence and have those who need help to contact them. For more information on Helen Keller National Center visit http://www.hknc.org or call 516-944-8900 Extension 333.
During the meeting it was asked if there were any resources that were available to people with just hearing problems, especially with obtaining hearing aids. Although, Helen Keller National Center may not necessarily be able to assist, Sam's Club announced that it does have a Hearing Center, where it gives free hearing tests (have to be a minimum of 18 years of age due to various State/Federal laws) and can help with obtaining hearing aids. For more information visit Sam's Club web site at http://www.samsclub.com/sams or call 631-447-0227 and ask for the Hearing Center.