A Change in Duties Brings Out the Best in Zydre Palukaityte

Zydre Palukaityte photo

Panama City, FL – Zydre Palukaityte adjusts the books on the shelf, making sure that each one is in its proper place. On other days, you’ll find her straightening the clothes on the racks and helping customers. “The customers love her,” says Marcie Crumbley, Zydre’s supervisor at Goodwill. “It took a while to get her out of her shell because she’s really quiet, but once I put her on the floor, she was a totally different person.”

Zydre, who has Asperger’s, a form of autism, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, has found her niche at Goodwill, and a good amount of the credit goes to Marcie. And when she first started at Goodwill, her job was to sort through donations in the back room, and she was miserable. Marcie saw something different in Zydre, and knew that she was in the wrong department. “I just knew by her personality that she needed to be somewhere else,” Marcie says. “I think she felt closed in back there, but once I brought her out here and taught her how to tag and hang, how to pull books, and other duties, she was a totally different person.”

“I do wares (housewares) and clothes,” Zydre says. “I put hangers on the rack and count them, and I help in the store.” Marcie proudly says that Zydre can tell you if a book is out of place or in a section it’s not supposed to be in.

Marcie continues, “She was a bit overwhelmed at first, but once I figured out what worked best for her, now she knows, and you can ask her to do anything. She’s on the job, never been late, never been out sick, I do love her.”

Zydre first came to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) when she was still in high school. She participated in job shadowing and got a job at the movie theatre, but it wasn’t a good fit for her. Zydre didn’t follow through on assignments and was eventually let go. Her VR Counselor Pamela Cramer talked to Zydre about On-the-Job Training (OJT) and together they decided to try a six month OJT with Goodwill.

On-the-Job Training is a VR program where employers train potential employees and give them the opportunity to experience working in an actual job setting. VR pays the employee’s salary during OJT, along with reasonable training costs and any accommodations needed. It’s a win-win situation for both employers and employees.

Pamela is also very proud of how far Zydre has come. “When Zydre first started, she was very shy and quiet, but now she’s more talkative and self-confident. Zydre needed those six months of OJT for her skills and personality to shine through so her supervisor could notice and recognize them,” she says. “Once the ‘real’ Zydre came out, she was instantly hired. OJT allowed Zydre time to get comfortable on the job and do her best.”

On-the-Job Training gave Zydre the hands-on experience she needed to learn the job’s responsibilities. Once she finished her training, Goodwill hired her permanently. When asked how the training went and if she would be willing to train more VR customers, Marcie says, “Yes! She was excellent! And we need more.”

If your business would like to participate in the On-the-Job Training program, contact your local VR office at (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org for a list of offices near you.

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.