Success Stories

Selena Mitchell wasn't sure what she wanted to do for a job, but she was certain about what she did not want to do: "I do not want to do janitorial work ever again," Selena said.

Selena Mitchell at work

Selena worked for much of her adult life in either group employment or sheltered workshops. She spent the last seven years in janitorial crews, cleaning office buildings at night. She went to Partnerships in Community Living (PCL), and went through the service known as Discovery, where Selena learned more about her passions and interests.

"I learned what kinds of jobs would fit me, what I would like to do," Selena said. "I really like a family atmosphere, something where I am around people, and something that isn't too overwhelming."

During the Discovery process, PCL and Selena's Vocational Rehabilitation counselor Phil Matthews also found out that Selena likes doing crafts, and really enjoys being around families. PCL is one of 25 service providers receiving grant funds from the Department of Human Services to transform to community-based, integrated employment services.

"Selena came to us just as we started this focus to community employment services, and it couldn't be a better first placement for us," said Joy Nering, job coach manager at PCL. "She has found a great job fit and it has been so exciting to see her flourish."

Create a Memory is a paint-your-own pottery store in downtown Salem. Owner Ann Tucker runs the business along with her son, Jonathan Fahey. The small business is a family affair, which includes Jonathan's dog Tucker and Ann's pet parrot, along with employees' children who visit the store.

After Selena completed an initial work assessment to see if she could complete the necessary tasks, Jonathan said he decided to extend a formal invitation to her. He wrote her a card that said, "We really like you and would like to hire you. Would you like to work here?"

Selena became emotional when the card arrived. To this day, the card with Jonathan's job offer is displayed in her room.

"I spent so many years working alone without anyone to talk to," Selena said. "Now I am allowed to work and also talk to people. And we joke around. And with this job, I learn new things all the time."

Selena's primary duties are cleaning art supplies, keeping paint and pottery supplies stocked, and keeping customers supplied with sponges, brushes and paints as they work on their projects. She works three days a week, and would like to work her way up to more hours.

"My favorite day is Saturday," Selena said. "We usually have a lot of birthday parties and it's really fun to help the kids."

Jonathan said Selena's work has helped him so he can focus more on managing the day-to-day activities of the store, such as ordering inventory.

"Selena's work has freed me up to do things like make sure we have enough products on the shelves for customers, and keep track of inventory," he said.

Selena's job coaches from PCL created a list of daily tasks, which helps Selena to focus.

Jonathan said he is also working with Selena to handle more customers by herself.

"You know, we've learned and grown together," he said. "What I would say to employers is that you get what you put into this. I have to be hands-on as an employer and make sure Selena has the tools she needs to be successful at her job. And if she is successful, we get what we need too. So it's a two-way street."

PCL continues to assist Selena with ongoing job coaching, as needed. Her county case manager is Derek Yonamine.

See a slideshow of Selena at work.

Thank you all for your continued involvement, support, and advocacy for services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oregon. If you have comments or other questions, please email them to employment.first@state.or.us