Work Opportunities Unlimited (WOU) helps clients with disabilities find meaningful employment and develop the skills they need to succeed. With WOU’s on-the-job support, some individuals may even surprise themselves with how much they grow! One great example is Kathryn, who began support services at WOU in January of 2019. A few months later she secured employment as a Store Associate in the apparel department at Walmart in Salem, NH. Since then, her Career Resource Specialist Sue Lawry has watched Kathryn blossom, saying, “She has truly matured and excelled in a work environment.”
When she first began at Walmart, Kathryn needed some assistance to develop her customer service skills. She felt uncomfortable engaging in dialogue with people she did not know, so Kathryn steered away from customer interaction. Sue and Kathryn started with one-on-one socializing and role play to ease Kathryn into comfortable engagement with customers. Today, Kathryn readily makes eye contact and provides a warm and friendly smile as she helps any customer that approaches her or those who appear to need assistance.
Kathryn has overcome other work-related barriers as well. At first, she preferred to be “behind the scenes,” working at the back of each section, where she felt less exposed to customers walking by in the main aisles. With Sue’s guidance and time, Kathryn’s confidence built and she became more comfortable working closer to the main aisle’s tables. Now each day Kathryn easily straightens up the apparel department, hanging and folding clothing per company procedure. Thanks to her keen eye and love of organizing, Sue says, “Kathryn will immediately notice items that are out of place and take initiative to put them back where they are supposed to go.”
In addition, Sue says, “Kathryn is willing to do other tasks as asked, which is a huge accomplishment on her part.” For instance, she’ll retrieve returns from the service desk area for restocking, without being asked. She has proven to be extremely flexible with her willingness to help her coworkers and the store itself in all areas. One day when Kathryn had caught up on her tasks, she and Sue asked her supervisor if Kathryn could put her skills to work in a different section – the sewing thread display. Sue says, “Within half an hour, she had everything organized by color. Attention to detail is part of who Kathryn is.”
Although Kathryn regularly states how much she loves all aspects of her job, there is one task in particular she enjoys most: folding clothes. Kathryn has gained notoriety from coworkers and management for the perfection she brings to folding merchandise in each of the apparel departments. In fact, they call her the Folding Queen – and as a Disney fanatic, this thrills Kathryn. Sue shares, “She likes to read and reread a huge Disney encyclopedia during her breaks. I bet she could answer any question about princesses and queens!”
Management “embraces and supports Kathryn wholly as the individual she is,” says Sue, and they are pleased with Kathryn’s progress and outstanding record of attendance. In addition, Sue says, “She has a very supportive group of coworkers that have worked with her in the apparel department for quite some time. Unlike most retail establishments, this department doesn’t seem to have a lot of turn over. That is an advantage for Kathryn for sure.” When Sue visits, Kathryn’s colleagues will share stories about her successes. “They find joy in her achievements – that’s the type of natural support you want!”
Kathryn has built her skills, met multiple job goals, and grown her self-confidence while working at Walmart. She cherishes the support and praise she receives from Sue, her store management, and coworkers. “She has a very happy spirit – it just needed to come out. Kathryn loves that people recognize what she’s achieved and what she’s capable of,” says Sue. We wish Kathryn many more years of continued success!