Perseverance Pays Off for Two Young People with Disabilities

Jennifer Huertas and Carl Meeks photo

MIAMI, FL - Dedication and persistence are adjectives that describe many people with disabilities who come to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) looking for employment. But nothing tested more true for customers Jennifer Huertas and Carl Meeks, who were VR customers for several years before they were hired by Sunset Feed three months ago. It was a process that showed just how resilient and patient they could be. “They wanted to be self-sufficient, and that’s why they hung in there,” says VR Consultant Ruby Bethea, who handled their case.

When they came to VR, Jennifer and Carl were introduced to Community Habilitation Center (CHC) where they met Job Coach Elizabeth Herrera. Carl and Jennifer both have mental disabilities, so VR and CHC worked on providing not only guidance and counseling, but also job skills training, coaching, job placement, and supported employment.

After working with Jennifer and Carl for several months, Elizabeth took them on a job interview at Sunset Feed. Sunset Feed was planning to hire only one employee, but they fell in love with both Jennifer and Carl, and so they hired them both. Elizabeth believes it is a perfect fit for everyone involved. “The people at Sunset Feed are just amazing,” she says.

At Sunset Feed, Jennifer works inside the store, keeping the shelves clean and restocked. Outside in the warehouse, Carl manages the bags of seed, filling five and ten pounds bags, as requested.

Stacy Frisch, Bookkeeper at Sunset Feed, also sees the benefits of hiring Carl and Jennifer. “They are always happy to be here,” she says. “Jennifer is really friendly and wants to socialize with everybody. And Carl’s very diligent; he goes straight to his department and starts working right away.” Stacy, who didn’t know about VR before she was introduced to Jennifer and Carl, says that the experience has opened her eyes and made her willing to hire other employees with disabilities. “It’s been a positive experience so far,” she says.

Not only are Jennifer and Carl happy to be employed, everyone around them can see the positive changes in their personalities. “A huge part of their success was their families,” says Ruby. “They even took pictures of their first check and went out to celebrate.”

Although Ruby is happy when any of her clients become employed, these two were extra special because of the perseverance they had to keep trying. “They hung in there so long,” she says.”It’s rewarding not only for them, but for me to see that they’re so happy.”

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,018 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.