Meet Rhonda. You and United Way helped her return to the workforce after she lost her sight.
Buy 200 bell peppers. Bring them home, don an apron and go to work washing and de-seeding them. Now, standing on your feet for the next six hours (with a half-hour lunch break), chop and slice all one hundred of them. Oh — and do it blindfolded. Rhonda Hunt lost her sight in her forties. At age 53, she came to Bosma Enterprises, eager to jump back into the workforce.
A former hospital kitchen cook, she had marketable skills in the food service industry. The challenge was finding an open-minded employer willing to give her a chance.
An Employment Services Specialist at Bosma pounded the pavement with Rhonda, helped her complete applications, and sat through multiple interviews—some encouraging, others demoralizing. But they never gave up, continuing to knock on doors until they finally found that open-minded employer who, after seeing Rhonda in action during an internship set up by Bosma, gave her a job slicing and dicing vegetables in a dining hall on the Purdue campus. Success!
Bosma’s relationship with Rhonda didn’t end with her finding employment. One of the perks of her job includes lunch in the dining hall where she works. Only, it’s a self-serve cafeteria. That blindfold you used for the peppers? Put it back on and find the trays, napkins and silverware, and decide what you want for lunch. Salad? Pizza? What ingredients in your salad? What toppings on the pizza?
And how do you get those onto your plate? Stir fry? Soup? Try ladling soup into a bowl in the dark! Bosma staff initially took turns driving up to West Lafayette to read the menu to Rhonda, fill her plate or bowl and make sure she found her way to a table. While there, the Specialists canvassed the campus and located volunteers from student service organizations who now help Rhonda at lunch on a regular basis.
Thanks to the commitment of BEST, Bosma’s Employment Services Team, Rhonda makes it into work on her own, finds her way up to the door and into the kitchen, and has assistance on her break. With these supports, she is able to maintain her job and perform as well as any other employee. (In fact, we think she’s better. She can do her job with her eyes closed!)
For the 2008/2009 funding year, UWCI allocated Community Fund dollars totaling $67,772 to help support Employment Services and other programs at Bosma Enterprises that help blind or visually impaired individuals gain the skills they need to live independently. To learn more, visit their website at http://www.bosma.org/.