From Outstanding Volunteer to Paid Staff in 70 Words a Minute

Lindsay Penney photo

Vero Beach, FL – "Lindsay has a remarkable memory – like a computer. When we’re doing an event, she’s very helpful. She keeps up with who called in, who’s RSVPed, and what needs to be done." This wonderful person Michael Kint, CEO for United Way of Indian River County, is talking about is office assistant, Lindsay Penney.

Lindsay, who has a learning disability, began her career with the United Way more than seven years ago when she and her mother, Karen Penney, started volunteering. Lindsay enjoyed volunteering but wanted to find a permanent job, so she came to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), an agency that helps people with mental and physical disabilities find or keep a job.

She began working with VR Counselor Joanne Jung. A job-skills assessment showed that with her excellent typing skills (she can type 70 words a minute), an office job would be the best route for her. Lindsay and Joanne hit it off from their first meeting. Lindsay says, "I was with her for a year and a half. I liked her from the beginning."

Lindsay had taken a few classes at Indian River State College to improve her office skills. Joanne brought in SunUp ARC so they could work with Lindsay to develop more personal skills. Joanne continued to offer counseling and guidance.

Counselors at SunUp ARC talked to Michael with the United Way about offering Lindsay at part-time position since the agency didn’t have a full time job available. He agreed to give her a chance.

Lindsay works part-time answering the phone in the morning and then she usually stays and volunteers in the afternoons. She is an all-purpose assistant working wherever they need help. "We have 32 partner agencies," says Michael. "Lindsay scans the press for any news about them and then scans in the stories for us. She may do nametags one day and check RSVPs the next. Lindsay’s a real fixture here. My board members are aware of her. She’s well-liked and respected. Most of the staff don’t know she has a disability."

Lindsay’s volunteering not only led to a paying job, it led to a Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2013. She explains, "I had put in so many volunteer hours that the United Way staff put in my name for the award. I got a certificate signed by President Obama." The office held a special ceremony to honor her for being such an outstanding volunteer.

Joanne is very proud of Lindsay and thrilled that she is doing so well in her job. "Lindsay is a lovely, young woman and a tremendous asset to the United Way. The growth that she has demonstrated has been amazing. She didn’t want anything to do with the phones at first, but now she does it quite well and she’s extremely helpful. The United Way staff have been so supportive of her."

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 80 offices across Florida, and last year helped 6,523 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.