All of us at SSMD are excited about our Annual Winter Campaign!!! You’ve probably seen some of the success stories we’ve posted before. This winter, we’re sharing Alex’s story. When he and I spoke a couple weeks ago, Alex was excited to hear that a Facebook friend like you might make a gift -- of $500, $250, $100 or another amount you select – if you learned more about how SSMD -- “and Alex,” as he says -- have worked together to change his life.
Only about 75 nonprofits around the country – only SSMD in Maryland – use the self-directed, individualized services approach we’ve described here exclusively. This is what has worked so well for Alex and the more than 50 other people with disabilities whom SSMD supports each year. The interaction of choice, control and support that helps Alex thrive can benefit so many others who deserve the same opportunities to be in charge of their own lives. With your gift to Shared Support Maryland now, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you are making change happen. It’s easy to make a gift to Shared Support Maryland through our website. Just go to www.sharedsupportmd.org and click on the DONATE button.
Here’s our latest the Story:
The importance of having a job is where Alex started our chat. Did you know that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities is more than double the national rate for Americans without disabilities? For too many people with disabilities, real work for real pay is only a dream. Alex was one of those people. He talked about the time he spent in a “day program,” because someone working in traditional disability services had evaluated him and found him “too disabled” to work. He talked about the monotony of playing board games and learning relaxation exercises day after day and only occasionally going out, but with the entire group from the center, for activities like bowling. He was so bored that he often just fell asleep. And, it seemed to him that nobody cared.
Alex added that nothing else in his life was any better back then either. He wasn’t allowed to make choices about his life, he wasn’t allowed to date, and he didn’t have any real friends. He was incredibly lonely. It seemed to him that nobody cared.
The first time Alex met with SSMD staff, “everything changed,” he says, because we listened. We heard what Alex didn’t like about his life and encouraged him to think about and tell us what he might like to do or want to try instead. The short of it is that SSMD staff demonstrated from Day One that we were there to work for Alex, rather than to tell him what he could or couldn’t do.
Alex’s first priority? Real work for real pay. The job coach he hired with SSMD’s support encouraged him through his job search, being hired and training at Panera Bread, and he has been working there successfully for more than two years now. Alex earns a competitive wage, feels appreciated and notes that he has built real friendships with co-workers.
SSMD didn’t stop there. We helped Alex explore other interests that might become hobbies, ways to meet new people or lead to other sorts of employment. Before long, Alex was as surprised as anyone to learn that he had a real passion – and talent! – for making ceramic beads and jewelry. His SSMD Support Broker took the next logical step to find a teacher of jewelry-making. And, the rest is history. Alex now makes his own jewelry. He also spends many weekends going to jewelry and craft shows, where he enjoys meeting and gaining inspiration from other craftspeople. His teacher thinks his jewelry is so good that she has offered to sell some of it at the store where she works, and SSMD has helped him start an online store on Etsy! He is so proud to have sold a number of pieces. Alex is well on his way to becoming an entrepreneur!
Alex’s life has changed in other ways, too, thanks to SSMD’s encouragement and the effort Alex put into his own life. Being motivated by success rather than being bored yields results. Alex lives in an apartment with a roommate he chose. They get along well. He’s dating, too, and hopes to find that special person with whom he can share his life. As he says, “I never felt like I belonged before. Now I have two jobs, an apartment, friends and a Facebook page!” All because of SSMD – “and Alex”.