(Washington, D.C.) – Situated along historic Pennsylvania Avenue, The Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center is the largest structure in Washington, DC.  Encompassing 3.1 million square feet, it’s the first federal building, mandated by Congress, to bring together the country’s best public and private resources. Its vast array of gleaming foyers and hallways, conference rooms and special event centers are the lifeblood of this important facility that’s dedicated to creating a national forum for the advancement of trade. 

Thomas Marshall knows first-hand just how much work goes into keeping the Ronald Reagan building in top-notch shape. He spends each and every day washing and scrubbing, waxing and vacuuming its corridors of commerce; it’s his life’s passion.

“Not too long ago, I was living on Social Security,” says Marshall. “I always worked but hit hard times. I had a job that even with overtime, didn’t pay a good wage; I couldn’t afford to live. I looked everywhere for a new job but I wasn’t having any luck.  My sister told me to keep trying and not give up but it was hard. I have a learning disability and it makes it difficult for me to learn new skills, so it was a struggle, but then I was told about the Ticket to Work program.”

Social Security’s Ticket to Work Program is a free and voluntary program available to adults who are blind or have a disability and who receive Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

“While participating in the Ticket to Work Program, people with disabilities can get the help they need to explore their work options without immediately losing their benefits,” says Iskedar Ayalew, Regional Director of Work Opportunities Unlimited. “Work Opportunities is an approved provider of services for the Ticket to Work Program. We specialize in helping individuals with barriers to employment, find the job that is right for them and then we provide ongoing support, once they get the job, to ensure that they are successful.”

“Thomas’s goal was to work full time in a custodial position,” says Ayalew. “With his work history, he has some great skills on board so we “skill marketed” him to Chimes, the company that holds the cleaning contract at the very cool Ronald Reagan building in downtown D.C.”

“Iskedar helped me with everything,” says Marshall.  “She helped me with my resume and interview skills and she walked me through the job application process, including drug testing and a security check; without her, I wouldn’t have gotten this job.”

“It’s the perfect match for Thomas,” says Ayalew.  “He brings dedication, quality work, and reliability to his job and he’s receiving full benefits without deductions from his pay. His boss says he’s a great communicator, a team builder and he sees Thomas as a future leader.”

“I wake up every day and I’m grateful,” says Marshall. “The Ticket to Work Program led me to Iskedar, who led me to a better place. I’m working fulltime at the Ronald Reagan building! It’s so much love there; the people, the environment, the good energy and support…it’s amazing.  I have my own place now, a one-bedroom apartment that I love. I’m not with Social Security any more, I’m supporting myself. I had no idea that this would ever happen for me. It’s amazing to wake up every day in a dream but I’m not in a dream, I’m living it.”