Employees with disabilities find a place in two Hillsboro businesses

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Patty Cyr and Don Heiser wear proud smiles as they work each day in Hillsboro.


They are considered disabled, but that hasn’t stopped them from having jobs. Cyr works at McDonald’s and Heiser is a temporary employee in the kitchen at Tabor College.


“People here are really nice,” Heiser said. “I’ve worked here before, right now it’s part-time work.”


October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month.


Of the estimated 2.6 million people in Kansas, about 200,000 over the age of 15 have disabilities, according to the Kansas Department of Human Resources.


Cyr and Heiser are a part of the world of employed people in their community, thanks to Northview Development Services.


Located in Newton, NDS was established in 1954 to encourage the employment of individuals with mental and physical handicaps.


“The handicapped just want to fit in and be accepted as normal and a valuable part of the community,” said Bev Plett, Northview residential manager at Oakwood Manor Apartments, where Heiser lives.


“Don’s very friendly, polite and proper,” Plett said.


Heiser will celebrate his 33rd birthday on Nov. 13. He has been with NDS for about four years.


Working daily on the rip saw at the NDS workshop, he points stakes for Woodstock, a company currently contracting NDS to make stakes for construction sites.


For two days in late October, Heiser filled in for another NDS employee, Gilbert McCoskey, at the cafeteria at Tabor.


“My job is putting the dishes away, and I help run the dishwasher,” Heiser said. “I like to put the dishes away and put the cardboard in the dumpster.”


Heiser has filled in for other employees at Tabor’s cafeteria in the past. He has also worked at Barkman Honey Co., made Christmas wreaths and filled in for employees at the Newton Recycling Center.


“I like fishing, playing basketball and eating,” Heiser said.


Heiser also enjoys attending local sports events and participates in basketball at the Special Olympics from January through March, Plett said.


“He’s very good,” she said. “His team has been at the top one or two positions in their division for the last three years I’ve been here.


“He has a very unique shot. He shoots with one hand, kind of puts the other hand at his side, and the ball always swishes (into the hoop).”


Heiser regularly attends Strassburg Baptist Church in Marion with his parents, Plett said.


“He was raised very well,” she said. “I thank his mom all the time.”


Cyr, another NDS employee, has worked at McDonald’s for about 15 months.


“Patty’s part of our McDonald’s team and her job is very important to keep things running smoothly,” said Susan Hein, assistant manager at McDonald’s in Hillsboro.


“She comes in about 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.,” Hein said.


“She does all the breakfast dishes and gets the whole area cleaned up from the morning. At lunch, she keeps all the tables cleaned, the trays wiped off, takes the trash out and keeps the floors swept.


Cyr graduated from Marion High School in 1988 and is 22.


“When I was in high school, I had some experience wiping tables,” Cyr said.”I worked in the cafeteria.


“I’m happy here (at McDonald’s). I like what I do.”


Hein said: “We’re happy with Patty. She does a really good job. When we ask her to do something, it’s done.”


Heiser and Cyr are just two of the 30 employees available through NDS, said Brenda Schmidt, employment service manager.


All 30 are presently employed. They are working on an individual basis, part of a group enclave or under contract at the NDS workshop.


NDS encourages employers to hire individual handicapped employees suited to particular jobs. An NDS staff member works one-on-one with each employee, helps them fill out a job application, and teaches them how to conduct themselves in an interview.


“We have a job coach, too,” Schmidt said.


“Our job coaches go in with each person, and they help train that person to each individual job so the employer doesn’t have to worry about the training.”


The NDS coach stays on the job with the employee until the coach is confident they know their job. A coach could help for one month or up to six months and will go back to the job for further coaching, if needed.


The NDS group enclave is an opportunity for the handicapped to get job training and employment in a group situation.


“For instance, we have a group that works at the (Newton) recycling center and a group that works at the (Newton) outlet mall,” Schmidt said.


“An employer will hire a group, and we evaluate each individual in this group to see how their work skills are. Then, we can take that one person out of that group enclave and match them to the right kind of (individual) jobs.


A third employment opportunity, through the NDS program, is Northview Employment-Industries.


“That’s the industrial art of our program,” Schmidt said.


“It’s kind of like the hub, where everybody congregates and works on different contracts. As the day progresses, if they have to go to work (for part of the day), they go out and do their job and might come back.”


One of the NDS contracting companies is Woodstock, which is owned by Mike Dudte.


“A supplier that Woodstock uses brings the wood to us. We get the order from Mike Dudte, we take the raw materials, and we make stakes,” Schmidt said.


Employers will find advantages hiring the handicapped through the NDS program, Schmidt said.


“NDS is responsible for transporting each individual to the job site, there are tax benefits, and the individuals are dependable and hard workers,” she said.


“Once they get the job, they’ll be there forever.”

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