Putting Her "Paws" to Work

Sara Chamlis photo

Tallahassee, FL When Sara Chamlis was younger, she tamed a feral cat and convinced her parents to let her adopt it. Always poised and confident, there was never a doubt in anyone's mind that Sara had a natural ability to work with animals. And now, thanks to help from Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Opportunity Services, Sara, who has developmental disabilities, is able to use her gifts on-the-job as a kennel assistant at Northwood Animal Hospital. Sara looks after animals, cleans cages and performs various office duties. She also bathes the dogs and takes them for walks, which is her favorite part.

"I do a lot of bathing. I bathe dogs and cats and give the veterinarians assistance when they need it," Sara says. "I also love when we get to exercise the animals, because we get to communicate with them. It's great!"

When Sara arrived at VR, it was clear that her willing spirit, combined with previous volunteer work and determination, made her a prime candidate for a job. She just needed assistance finding the right one. Sara's VR Counselor Ruhnetta Fennell referred her to Phyllis Tessel at Opportunity Services. Phyllis helped her with interview training and job matching, which eventually led to her current job at the animal hospital.

"I could go on and on about Sara," Phyllis says. "She had a great attitude from the moment I met her. She is articulate, experienced and loves what she's doing. It made it a pleasure to work with her."

Of Sara's work ethic, her supervisor Diana Kochersperger says Sara is one of the best employees, often going above and beyond what is required of her. "When Sara came in for an interview, she was dressed professionally and answered all the questions precisely and correctly. We hired her, and now she is always on time and never misses a day," says Diana. "If she runs out of tasks, she comes and asks what she can do. She is always so happy to be here, too. Everybody has to smile when they are around her."

Sara is very thankful for all the assistance she received, and says she appreciates all that VR has done. "If it wasn't for you guys, I wouldn't have a job. I'm just so grateful!"

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 post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 3,874 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.