Tony Siebenaller started his community-based assessment at Rural King and never wanted to leave.
As a consumer of the Firelands Vocational Rehabilitation Services program, Siebenaller used the service to help him get a job. Firelands Vocational Rehabilitation Services assists members of the community who have a mental health and/or an alcohol or drug addiction diagnosis in finding work in Erie, Sandusky, Seneca and Wyandot counties.
"When a consumer is interested in working but has some kind of disability, they can be referred to a rehabilitation services commission," said Employment Specialist Coordinator Lori Sharpe.
Once the commission gathers the consumer's information, they are deemed eligible to enter a program with a vendor such as Firelands Vocational.
After the consumer chooses, the vendor and consumer make a plan to figure out the services they would need such as job seeking, which assists in building a resume and cover letter, or work adjustment, which teaches appropriate behaviors in the work place and work place attire.
"We're a job readiness and placement program," Sharpe said. "We help them get ready for employment if they haven't worked in a while, if they don't have a long job history. We help them build those skills they they're going to need to be employable."
The program was organized by Sharpe. Now, as the coordinator, she is training other staff to be job developers.
Sharpe continues to travel to each of the four counties involved in the program and organizes job development within the community.
"I go to talk to businesses that are willing to work with a program like ours knowing that there may be some issues," Sharpe said. "Rural King was extremely willing to work with us."
Besides Rural King, other companies participating in the program include Bob Evans, Subway, Lowes, Walmart, Burger King and Big Lots. Although jobs are not always available, these companies often provide community-based assessment opportunities.
The assessment service provides a real work experience for the consumer, giving them two weeks in an actual job site in order to determine the individual's work preferences, readiness and capabilities.
The company providing the service is not required to hire the consumer, but have that opportunity if a job is open.
"They allow us to come into their business and provide these hours for us to complete the assessment," said Sharpe.
The program stays involved in the employment process for a minimum of 90 days to watch over the consumer.
"It's designed to be a win-win situation for both the employer and the employee," Sharpe said. "Once they reach their 90 days, that's considered a successful employment."
Several companies in the community have agreed to provide part-time work with the Vocational Rehabilitation Services program.
They have five people employed through the program; two are located in Seneca County.
Siebenaller started the program when Sharpe was still contracting and did his intake, eligibility and service plan. Although working at Rural King was not what he originally wanted, Siebenaller did his assessment there.
His plan was to be a fast-food cook, he said, but after working at Rural King, they discovered he had many helpful skills on the job and asked him to stay.
"He wasn't even done (with the community-based assessment)," Sharpe said. "It was his last day and the manager went to the job developer who was with him and asked, 'how do I hire him?' They found out that he had a lot more skills than just stocking shelves."
Along with putting away returns, moving displays and loading merchandise into customers' cars, he started working with the cardboard baler, the fork lift to pull freight and the computer's price tag creation program.
"I picked right up on that," Siebenaller said.
His hard work paid off, and his co-workers know who to count on for help.
"He's the best loader here," said employee Nathan Heyman. "He can be trusted with anything."
Store Manager Jeremy Weidner said Rural King started getting into outreach programs in the fall of last year and has worked with many people like Seibenaller.
"We're trying to make a life commitment for these folks," he said. "He found something he really, really enjoys."
At work, his positive attitude is contagious.
Co-worker Brittney Wise said: "Every time I see him, he's always smiling which brings a smile to my face. ... He's always got the customer smiling."
Siebenaller will be discharged from the program soon and is happy to continue working at Rural King.
"It's a great place to be," he said. "I appreciate Firelands for helping me find a workplace."
So far, Siebenaller does not have any favorite stories from working at Rural King, but he does have a favorite part - "probably the popcorn!"