Success Stories

Simon Date knows from personal experience that sometimes low expectations are set for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

His daughter, Ruby, has autism. His experience parenting a child with I/DD inspired the tattoos on his arms: "Different" on his left arm and "Not Less" on is right arm.

Columbia County Employment First team

In addition to his role as father, Simon is helping to encourage businesses to hire people with I/DD as executive director of the South County Chamber of Commerce in St. Helens.

"Betty (Bundy, service coordinator) invited me to an Employment First meeting, and I went and met with the crew there," Simon said. "I really want to help as much as I can. It's part of my role anyway, but it's also obviously a topic that is near and dear to my heart."

Simon is also putting his belief into action as an employer. He employs two people with I/DD at the office.

"Since Simon has started, he has supported our team to host a Coffee & Commerce, is allowing us to use the Chamber for a prep day for an upcoming Reverse Job Fair, and he has just been all around supportive of the mission of Columbia County Employment First team," said Betty Bundy with Columbia County Developmental Disabilities Program.

Betty Knod, 49, volunteered at the chamber office for 14 years. When Simon came on as executive director, Service Coordinator Betty Bundy and job developer Amber Nagel saw an opportunity to turn Betty's volunteer work into a paid job.

"Betty really runs the place," Simon said. "Her work in the front lobby allows me to sit in my office and do other things."

Columbia County Employment First team

Betty answers phones, keeps brochures stacked, keeps track of the visitor log, and in general, keeps the office running.

Betty walks to the office listening to music on her headphone. She loves office work. In addition to working at the South Columbia Chamber of Commerce, she also works at a local accounting firm.

"I love to expand my horizons," Betty Knod said. "Being a secretary is what I love doing."

Cody Epperly is a new employee to the office. Cody, 26, is doing graphic design work, as well as inventorying the office's old computer equipment. Cody has a keen sense of attention to detail. He is meticulously going through old computers and testing them to see what is salvageable.

Cody's passion, however, is writing, design and trains. The South Columbia Chamber office is in a building that used to be an old train depot in St. Helens.
Cody has started his own YouTube channel devoted to his love of trains.

"I love graphic design; it's what I was born to do," Cody said. "I love drawing, I love writing. I just write constantly. I just can't get enough of it."

Cody designs flyers and brochures for South Columbia Chamber of Commerce to help promote events.

"This is an untapped workforce," Simon said. "What I tell employers is, 'You will have a dedicated and committed employee and all you may have to do is make a few accommodations.'"

Betty's employment team includes: Betty Bundy, service coordinator at Columbia County Developmental Disabilities Program; job developer and job coach Amber Nagel with Community Access Services; VR counselor Sandra Cato; and benefits counselor Josh Goller.

Cody's employment team includes: Joshua Mortensen, personal agent with Integrated Services Network; job developer and job coach Amber Nagel, VR counselor Sandra Cato and benefits counselor Katie Thompson.

You can view a video of South Columbia Chamber Employment Success.

A photo slideshow is online.