Woman with Disabilities Has Found Her Niche

Laura Hulsing photo

Tampa, FL – “She is a strong presence for our company,” says Emma Blackwelder, Co- owner of Home Helpers (right in photo), which offers in-home care supportive services. As the face of the company, Marketing Assistant Laura Hulsing (left in photo), who has Severe Sleep and Major Depression Disorders as well as Attention Deficient Disorder, networks and educates the community and local businesses about Home Helpers and what they do.

Laura attends marketing luncheons, makes presentations, and conducts one-on-one meetings with individual businesses, day cares, doctor’s offices and other assisted living facilities. “She is extremely well received by the community,” says Emma.

Trotting alongside Laura is her service dog, Autumn, who Laura received through Canines for Veterans. Autumn helps Laura with her anxiety and nervousness from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, giving her the security and confidence she needs to do her job.

While applying for jobs at an employment center in Pasco County, Laura first learned about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). She had recently lost her job as a school bus driver and was becoming desperate. So when she learned that she could be a candidate for VR, Laura was unsure what to expect. Now, employed with Home Helpers, VR exceeded her expectations. “It’s not like they enable you,” she says. “They ‘able’ you.”

“Laura was very passionate about finding a job where she could not only impact her own life, but the lives of others as well,” says VR Counselor Ana Vendrell. VR provided Laura with guidance and counseling, physical and mental restoration, and treatment and therapy. To help place her in a suitable career, VR enrolled Laura in an On-the-Job Training (OJT) program with Home Helpers.

On-the-Job Training is an opportunity for employers to train potential employees and give them the chance to experience working in a real-world 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.

After Laura completed her OJT, Home Helpers kept her on as a permanent employee. “She got the job through the OJT,” says Ana, who noted that Laura’s enthusiasm made her an ideal candidate for the position. “She put forth a lot of effort to learn,” she continues. “She’s always trying to go to the next level.”

Laura has even taken her responsibilities a step further by learning to create marketing materials. “She’s definitely driven and a hard worker,” says Emma, who says the impact Laura has had on Home Helpers has been tremendous. “She’s an asset to our company.”

Laura says that without Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) she never would have realized her strengths in marketing and networking. “Once VR finds a place for you, it’s a place you really love and you have support,” says Laura, who wants to go to college and eventually own her own marketing business.

“VR gives you the tools to be able to take care of yourself and support yourself,” says Laura. She compares VR to an adult helping a child learn to ride a bike. “They’re holding the back of the bike long enough until they let go and you realize you’re riding the bike all by yourself,” she says. Although eventually the hand helping you stay steady is gone, you have learned the skills needed to be successful.

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.