Cindy Emerick adores her feline friends at South Coast Humane Society.
Cindy started working at South Coast Humane Society in Brookings in December 2015. Before starting her paid position at 15 hours per week, Cindy volunteered at the animal shelter, coming in to groom, pet and socialize with the cats.
Cindy was unemployed for several years and spoke to local provider Mentor Oregon about a paid job. Elaine Lortscher, job developer with Mentor, knew Cindy was interested in cats and loved the shelter. It seemed like the natural place to start Cindy’s employment search.
“We had just lost someone at the shelter, and really needed someone reliable who wanted to be here,” said Tanya, manager at the South Coast Humane Society.
Cindy worked at various jobs over the years, including as a dishwasher and cleaning rooms at an assisted living facility. Her last job at a restaurant ended and Cindy said she was unemployed for more than five years.
“I was alone before I came here,” said Cindy, who experiences an intellectual disability and some issues with anxiety.
Cindy works five mornings per week in the shelter as an animal care attendant. Her duties include feeding the cats, cleaning out their kennels, and changing out the litter boxes. She still pets and talks to the cats, but with more than 60 cats at the shelter at times, there is much work to do.
“I’m never bored here,” Cindy said. “There’s always extra work to do.”
“They never judge me,” Cindy said of the cats in her care. “They are good company for me. I tell them every day that they are good kitties and that I love them.”
Tanya said Cindy’s love and attention to detail in caring for the cats has been a great help at the busy shelter in coastal Brookings, which takes in abandoned, neglected and abused cats and dogs throughout Curry County. Brookings is a small community of more than 6,000 people on the southern Oregon coast.
“Even the really feral cats like Cindy because she talks to them all the time,” Tanya said. “The most skittish cats respond to her, are calmer with her.”
Cindy said she also enjoys the company of her coworkers, and the supportive environment at South Coast Humane Society.
“I’m treated like everyone else here and that’s what I want,” she said. “They care about me and encourage me to do a good job.”
Tanya said she would encourage any employer to consider hiring an individual with a disability, especially when the job fit is so perfect.
“We are all benefiting from this, not just Cindy,” Tanya said. “The cats love her and we all enjoy the passion she brings to her work. Cindy brings so much joy to this place.”
Lain Ham was the VR counselor for Cindy. Karen Lomheim is Cindy’s service coordinator from Community Living Case Management. Elaine Lortscher was the job developer and Mentor Oregon provides job coaching when needed. Nelson Ferguson was the benefits counselor from the Work Incentives Network.
View a slideshow of Cindy at work.