Success Stories

Pamela Roan was sure that Ray Hesseltine would be a great employee – she just needed to find an employer who shared her belief.

Ray is legally blind and has autism and an intellectual and developmental disability (I/DD). By his early 40s, he had never worked in a community job and had only been in day support activities.

Pamela is director of employment services at Step Forward Activities, Inc., a provider agency in Baker City. She believed in Ray’s potential and knew a community job could change his life.

“I knew he could be successful in a supportive, nurturing environment,” Pamela said.

Pamela approached Stacy DeLong, owner of Coverworks Plus, a small family business that sells tile, window and floor coverings in Baker City.

“We just have a lot of cleaning work around here, and I was doing it myself,” Stacy said. “Pamela just kept coming by. She practically camped outside our front door. I wasn’t sure but Pamela asked me to give Ray the opportunity and try the work experience.”

Ray Hesseltine at Coverworks Plus

Pamela worked with the Oregon Commission for the Blind to secure a 90-day paid work experience for Ray.

Ray’s 90-day work experience turned into a permanent job.

“He is a really hard worker,” Stacy said. “He does everything that is asked of him.”

Ray, now 43, lives with his mother in Baker City. He likes that the store is quiet and there is room for him to move around. He also gets along well with his coworkers.

“I feel good here,” he said. “My mom thinks it’s pretty good I’m working now.”

Ray is saving his paychecks for a vacation to the Oregon coast. Stacy said she remembers the day Ray came in for the first paycheck he ever earned.

“He came in and just said, ‘I’ll need my first paycheck now please,’” Stacy said, laughing. “He was so excited and proud.”

Pamela said Ray has changed from the quiet, withdrawn man she knew before. When he first started his job, Pamela said Ray didn’t speak to anyone. She said he now comes in smiling and speaks to everyone.

“This job has changed him in every aspect of his life,” she said. “He has a smile on his face every time I see him. That is true of almost everyone I have placed in integrated community employment.”

Pamela said she believes anyone – regardless of their disability – can work in community employment.

“There is something for everyone,” Pamela said. “You just have to continue making those connections in your community and know the right fits are there if you keep looking.”

Ray Hesseltine at Coverworks Plus

Stacy, who had never employed someone with a disability before, said she is glad she gave Ray a chance.

“He’s our ‘Ray’ of sunshine,” she said. “He has freed up so much of my time. I think there is an opportunity to expand his job duties. He’s part of our team.”

Ray’s employment team includes: Pamela Roan, employment director and job developer at Step Forward Activities; Charlie Carpenter, job coach with Step Forward Activities; VR counselor Samantha Smith with Oregon Commission for the Blind; Billee Mekowsky, service coordinator with New Directions Northwest; and Jennifer Bonnell provided benefits counseling with Work Incentives Network.

View a slideshow of Ray at work.