In early 2020, Supported Employment client Heidi Hanes had job offers from various employers in the community, including positions at the Akron Zoo and Canal Park (home to the Akron RubberDucks baseball team).
The jobs that had been offered to Heidi were no longer available due to the shut down.
Heidi went on hiatus from the Supported Employment program to focus on her mental health and obtaining stable housing. While volunteering at Habitat for Humanity, Heidi noticed the Amazon sorting facility nearby. Using skills she had learned through the employment program, Heidi submitted an application and completed a job interview at Amazon. Shortly after, she was a full-time employee!
“You want to enjoy what you’re doing so it’s not meaningless work. With COVID hitting, lots of people turned to Amazon to order household stuff,” Hanes said. “It was great being a part of having people get their essential items delivered to their homes.”
While working at Amazon, Heidi has taken advantage of the resources available to her at CSS. She met with Supported Employment benefits specialist Michell Montgomery, who helped her learn how to maximize her earnings and still maintain her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicaid benefits. She also learned about the benefits of Social Security’s Ticket to Work program, which provides additional protections.
Heidi also worked with employment staff and her medical care team to obtain a disability accommodation at Amazon to protect her from working too many hours and jeopardizing her mental health or earning too much money and affecting her SSDI and healthcare benefits. Heidi is proof that benefits recipients can work and stay on benefits if they adhere to certain guidelines.
Heidi says her success at Amazon has boosted her confidence and helped increase her physical stamina and mental health.
“It’s a competitive workplace, and you have to meet certain rates. You’re always trying to motivate yourself to achieve a certain number goal,” she said. “I was in the 10 top for three consecutive months. They got tired of putting my name on the leader board.”
Heidi is eager to advance her career with Amazon. The company is paying for her tuition to attend the University of Akron this summer, where she will begin coursework towards an associate degree that will qualify her to be an area manager.