Mike needed a reset.

For more than a decade, Mike had worked in an enclave setting in a hospital, going from department to department collecting empty cardboard boxes, breaking them down and bringing them to the compactor. The enclave setting gave Mike a steady routine and structure while getting a taste of what community employment could be, but after 14 years, he was ready to take the next step . . . he was ready for a reset.

Mike recently got his first community-based job, earning a position at the Red Robin in Woodfield and has learned the job skills and independence to do his work without a job coach, navigate public transportation and communicate with staff and supervisors at the restaurant.

It was a big change for Mike who is one of the first Little City participants to benefit from each program within the employment program.

“Mike really is a unique case because he experienced every program we offer in order to get where he is today,” said Shawna Pearson, Director of Employment Services. “He is a great example of what can happen when Employment First, EDS in the Community and our classes here are used together.”

Mike’s readiness for the change was evident right away to his job developer Keenya Coley. Keenya said Mike had to relearn some skills after doing the same job for so long, but his work ethic and eagerness made him a quick learner. He was also comfortable enough to express when a situation may not feel like the right fit after an interview – a rare trait for many of the first-time job seekers at Little City.

“It took him a little while to open up, but he is such a humble person and hard worker and all-around good guy that he just takes to things really quickly,” Keenya said. “When he first started at Red Robin, he told me he was worried he wasn’t doing a good job because he sincerely cares about his work and when I told him that all the managers told me how much they love having him, he really took off after that.”

Since the reset in employment, Mike is working twice a week at the restaurant and comfortable interacting with his co-workers and managers – a social skill he had little chance to develop in his previous enclave setting. Keenya said she now only needs to visit the job site as Mike is thriving, and he has figured out how to manage transportation to and from work.

She said the self-reliance and independence a community job provides compared to an enclave setting has already made a positive change in Mike’s life.

“It was such a joy to work with Mike and we’re buddies now. Seeing how this has made such a positive difference for him has really made me feel like I helped accomplish something special,” Keenya said. “He loves what he does and it is the perfect fit for him.

This is your impact on adults with disabilities when you donate today – enabling each to work productively for a lifetime and grow their life skills to find success each day.

In 2022, 45 adult participants were placed in a new job through the Employment First program here at Little City – helping each to work productively and reach their unique potential for a lifetime.