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As you walk in the front doors of the Kerasotes facility, you can’t help but notice Sadie and Debra sitting at the tables right inside. They have become a fixture at our Kerasotes YMCA as they are there daily from 12:30-2:30 p.m. You can usually see them laughing and engaging with YMCA members and staff, but always working.

Sadie has been in the Sangamon Area Special Education District STEP (Secondary Transition Experience Program) for almost three years. STEP is a training and placement program that helps students with disabilities prepare to transition to employment and community participation during and after high school. It engages employers, schools, community resources, youth and their families to help businesses meet their workforce needs while offering young people with disabilities the opportunity to learn, grow and succeed through employment.

Debra Weiner is Sadie’s job coach. Debra’s job is to ensure that Sadie is doing what her employer wants her to do and ensure Sadie is happy and thriving in her job.

When STEP approached Kris Fulford, Branch Director for the Kerasotes YMCA and asked if there was anything that Sadie could do, Kris didn’t hesitate to say yes even though she wasn’t quite sure yet what tasks to prepare for her. For the first couple of months, Kris would bring out a basket of towels and have Sadie fold the towels. When Sadie would leave, they would mess up the same basket she folded and set them out for her the next day. Sadie struggled a bit when it came to her fine motor skills. When Said first started, it took her almost two hours to fold all the towels. Now she can fold a basket of towels in no time. Kris Fulford said, “Sadie is doing a fantastic job for us and is an absolute joy to have around.”

Because she has gotten so efficient with folding the towels, the staff have found other jobs for Sadie. She empties the trash and occasionally cleans the toys from the Child Watch area. Youth Development Director, Sarah Brewer says, “I can always count on Sadie to do an excellent job cleaning the toys, and she always does it with a smile on her face.” These skills are setting her up for when she graduates from school and looks for a job.

Sadie is very proud that she has mastered a new skill and that she keeps the YMCA neat and clean. Debra commented that Sadie has done an excellent job working for the YMCA. She described the environment here as accepting, friendly and reassuring. Deb says, “This job has given her confidence, trust, and a sense of belonging and accomplishment. Sadie has really flourished since starting at the YMCA.”

By, Lynn