Keeping the Community Safe

Rida Hernandez photo

Bonita Springs, FL – The next time you visit a friend at the Hawthorne gated community, you’ll find a friendly face at the guard gate keeping the people and property safe – Rida Hernandez. “l love my job so much! It’s so perfect and I love the community,” she says.

Rida is blind in her left eye and also has Common Variable Immune Deficiency Disorder, which means she is highly susceptible to infection from outside sources. With such a risky disorder, Rida needed to find just the right job for her – and she finally has.

For six years, Rida worked with Vocational Rehabilitation (VR), a federal-state agency that helps people with disabilities get or keep a job, and it’s been a long, difficult road. She needed eye surgery, medication after the surgery, and transportation to her appointments, which VR provided so she would be ready to work. Her VR Counselor Victoria Aguilar brought in job coaches, Patti Warren and Jessica Salois with the SW Florida Job Squad, to guide Rida in finding that elusive job. It wasn’t easy, though. Rida applied and was turned down for more than 100 jobs.

Rida had previous job experience as a long-haul trucker and a customer service representative with another trucking company. Her last employer decided she needed to go on disability insurance after her disorder progressed and let her go. “It took me a while to get on my feet. I felt that I still had something left in me to give but wasn’t sure what,” she says.

“Jessica kept saying to me think outside the box. They never gave up, and they kept sending me all different types of job openings,” says Rida. “I thought about being a security officer and decided to pursue it. Victoria and VR signed me up for an unarmed security class, and I got my security license.”

After a year and a half of looking for work, Rida became a security officer at a gated community called Hawthorne, and she couldn’t be happier. “I work Saturday and Sunday for 12 hours. I’m in a large office with air conditioning, and I’m by myself. My contact with people is always outdoors, so it’s perfect for my needs. I’m so excited and so happy.”

Rida recently received a Client Commendation from their parent company, Weiser Security, Services, Inc., for her outstanding work performance. The homeowners and management agree that she’s doing a great job. She is also considering increasing her hours after she has additional eye surgery and becomes acclimated to working again.

Victoria is very proud of Rida for her persistence and perseverance. “She did get a little down at times because she applied to so many places and got denied every time. But she just kept trying, and she’s one of the few individuals I’ve worked with who never gave up and never let rejection defeat her spirit. And it’s nice to see that they really take care of her at her new job.”

Rida is happy that Victoria and the girls didn’t give up on her. “I have a lot of gratitude for VR and everything they’ve helped me with. I don’t’ know where I’d be without it.”

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 5,760 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.