Nathaniel Brown, Jr. was out of work and needed help finding a job. While waiting for the bus one day, Nathaniel began talking with someone who knew about the community employment programs offered by MERS/Goodwill.
Despite not having an official employer for more than 10 years, Nathaniel enthusiastically worked to better his community. He helped his neighbors and older adults by running errands for them, taking out their trash and cleaning their houses. Although Nathaniel loved working and living in this area, he needed a steady job with guaranteed consistent hours.
In July of 2013, Nathaniel was referred to MERS/Goodwill’s Job Placement services by Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, and he became involved in its Supported Employment Program. This program is designed to meet the employment needs of individuals with developmental disabilities; it includes discovery and exploration to decide on a job goal, job development to find a permanent position, job coaching to learn the responsibilities of the position and retention to maintain employment long-term.
When asked what the biggest obstacle was in pursuit of reliable employment, Nathaniel said, “I hadn’t had a legitimate job in years and employers considered my community work to be invalid.”
Once Nathaniel began this program and met his MERS/Goodwill Employment Specialist, Tom Lemon, his future seemed to offer many more opportunities. Tom helped Nathaniel look for jobs that fit his unique interests, experiences and skill levels.
“Right away, I noticed Nathaniel’s determination in finding a job,” said Tom. “Even though he was self-employed, business had started to really slow down, and he wanted to find a job where he was guaranteed a steady paycheck.”
Nathaniel’s success in the program was inevitable due to his eagerness and positivity in finding the right job. Tom recalls, “Nathaniel would call me throughout the week to let me know about job leads, business he was interested in or places that he saw were hiring. Even though it was taking some time to find Nathaniel the right job, never once did he show signs of giving up. It only made him work harder to find other possible opportunities.” At times, Nathaniel showed his frustration, but he always kept a positive attitude and kept trying, even when giving up seemed liked the only option.
When Tom saw an opening for a housekeeping position at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, he immediately thought of Nathaniel as a qualified candidate. Tom referred Nathaniel to Ben Williams, MERS/Goodwill Supported Employment Specialist, who coordinates interviews and the job application process for BJH through a grant from the St. Louis Office for DD Resources.
“Tom taught me how to speak with people professionally and look people in the eye,” said Nathaniel. “He also helped me understand how to interview for a job.”
Tom added, “We were able to counteract his work history by working with Nathaniel’s interview skills and presenting to employers that he was still actively keeping up with his janitorial skills.” Nathaniel’s work on his interview skills paid off. Barnes-Jewish Hospital was blown away by his interview and offered Nathaniel a full-time position as a housekeeper. He gladly accepted the offer and began his work in June of 2014, receiving benefits and a short-term disability package.
“As the main housekeeper in the south cafeteria, I wipe down tables, sweep the floor and greet staff, patients and their family members,” said Nathaniel. “It’s a new experience, and my supervisor and coworkers are solid people and supportive.”
Even after leaving his legacy of work in his community, Nathaniel is still helping people in need at BJH, and Tom couldn’t be happier for Nathaniel. Nathaniel is showing the world that he always had what it took to be a model employee. “All he needed was a little help to get the ball rolling,” Tom said.
Nathaniel says he receives compliments from the hospital staff daily and has even noticed more and more people eating in the cafeteria since he began six months ago.
“I was getting ready to go to my lunch hour, and I thought of how much better it is to have my lunch in the cafeteria now,” said a BJH employee. “I love how clean and great it looks since Nathaniel Brown has been working in the area. I look forward to eating in the cafeteria because I know he has always kept it very clean. We need more people like Nathaniel at Barnes because he is a great worker and always has a smile on his face.”
With the help of MERS/Goodwill, Nathaniel found a job that was right for him. He is one step closer to reaching his long-term goals of being more independent, having money to spend on his family and being able to provide other help for them if they ever needed it.