Whole Foods, the Perfect Job for Young Woman with a Disability

Kendra Ojo photo

Miami, FL – Kendra Ojo, who has an intellectual disability, has found her perfect job at Whole Foods Market South Beach. With support from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and Whole Foods’ unique hiring process, Kendra’s job as a front end customer service representative was tailored to her unique abilities and needs.

Kendra first came to VR in 2013 for help getting a job but, unfortunately, she wasn’t successful at first. Then, she met with VR Counselor Johanna Martinez, who brought in Job Coach Ibel Pinera with MVP Autism Foundation. Johanna offered Kendra guidance and counseling while Ibel worked with her to build her resume, practice interviewing, and apply for jobs. When Kendra got the job at Whole Foods, Ibel went with her to the store to help her learn exactly what was expected of her.

And this time, things clicked. Johanna explains, “Kendra is great, it’s hard not to fall in love with her. She is a very hard worker, and has a lot of great qualities for an employer. This time around, we had the right natural support group built for her.”

Another reason this job worked for Kendra was Whole Foods’ unique hiring process. Whole Foods referred Kendra to a physical therapist for a functional capacity assessment so they could get a thorough analysis of any accommodations she needed to perform the job to the expected standards. They also included her job coach in any communications and evaluations.

Her supervisor, Aundra (Dre’) Creary, is happy to have Kendra on his staff. “She comes to work, day in and day out, ready and willing to give everything she has with an upbeat personality and upbeat attitude. She also interacts with the customers unlike anyone of our other team members. She interacts with the kids. If you ask her to do something, she does it without hesitation. And, you know, we really appreciate that here at Whole Foods.”

Kendra is grateful for the opportunity to work in such a caring and inclusive environment. “I'm thankful for my team members at Whole Foods.”

Johanna is proud of how far Kendra has come in such a short time. “She has led to her success. She is an amazing person, with a great attitude. She loves her job, and the people at her job like her. She is an inspiration to me, and everyone she works with. She is really responsible, and that makes it work. I would love to see other companies give people with disabilities jobs in our community, like Whole Foods did.”

Whole Foods Market has instilled in their employees the fact that each person has something valuable to offer to whoever employs them. They offer flexible schedules, frequent breaks, one-on-one coaching during training, and any reasonable accommodations needed for the job. For this reason, Whole Foods Market South Beach recently was honored as an Outstanding Employer by VR.

Florida’s Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) is a federal-state program committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America’s workforce. The employer-focused website, https://abilitieswork.employflorida.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 90 offices across Florida, and last year helped 5,194 Floridians with significant disabilities get or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit http://www.Rehabworks.org.