Community Employment Opportunity continues to work with disabled citizens to find work during hard times.
The late Francis Quinn Morris laid the foundation for Community Employment Opportunities in 1977 when she developed an organization for those persons with mental disabilities.
“My sister, Lorrie, had been diagnosed with down syndrome,” said Jeannette Quinn Bracken, daughter of Francis. “My mother started thinking about what Lorrie was going to do after high school.”
According to Bracken, her mother campaigned hard with citizens in the community for support and funds in order to provide a service for those who were deemed “disabled.”
The operation, which was held inside the old jail on Pike Street, taught those with physical and mental disabilities how to perform basic home skills as well as various crafts for pleasure.
However, in 1997, under new federal and state mandates, the organization underwent revamping, resulting in the present day Community Employment Opportunities.
“Our agency, which is non-profit, allows us to help place individuals in our community into safe working environments,” said director Jason Back. “Currently we have 44 individuals in jobs where they are earning a paycheck.”
According to Back, individuals who qualify for assistance from Community Employment Opportunities undergo a period where their skill set is determined in order to be placed in an appropriate job setting.
“Everyone has skills,” said Back. “It is our goal to find those skills, develop them and help them find a place that is safe for them to work.”
Back said over 150 people in Harrison County have been placed into jobs since the mission began.
“It is a chance for them to find self worth and a feeling of being needed in a job setting,” said Back. “It is a way to help them live a more meaningful life.”
However, due to a decline in the economy, businesses are in less demand for employees, resulting in fewer partners for Community Employment Opportunities.
“We are in need of partners to provide part-time or full-time jobs for our men and women,” explained Bracken. “We understand that we are in hard times, but these people are willing to work and I know there is a place for each and every one of them.”
Back explained that the amount of work performed by the placed individuals varies from each person.
“Some of the workers have barriers as to how much they want to work or where and that is where we help,” said Back. “We are here as the middle man to solve any issues between employer and employee should they surface.”
Back explained that employers are not approached by Community Employment Opportunities until the individual has been assessed and all needs will be met for both the employer and employee.
Back further explained that Community Employment Opportunities also plays a role in the training of individuals for specific job-related duties.
“We don’t just drop them off at work and let the employer deal with it all on their own,” said Back. “The employers are doing us and the individual a great service and we do anything we can to ensure satisfaction on both parts.”
Of the many individuals that have participated in the Community Employment Opportunities, Bracken said each one shows a true testament to an improvement to someone’s life.
“The employers don’t see sometimes the excitement when they receive their first paycheck,” said Bracken. “It is a real treat to see someone work hard and feel the rewards of their hard work.”
For more information about Community Employment Opportunities or to find out ways to help, contact them at 859-234-9377.
Community Employment Opportunities is not in affiliation with Community Action, however they are located in the same building on Old Lair Road.