Keith Davis, age 57, came to MHDS in 1979 and was briefly employed in a community setting once. Recently Keith expressed a desire to pursue the integrated supported employment option again. MHDS staff set about putting a plan in motion to make that possible for him.
Rance Thetford, Supported Employment Manager, started searching for an employment experience for Keith. In conversation with another MHDS staff, Sherita Ross, who is Community Based Activities Manager, he learned that her daughter was employed at a new restaurant called Isabella’s Louisiana Bistro. Sherita’s daughter, Sherika Ross, approached the owners about allowing Keith to spend a few days in a work simulation as a trial to see if that environment would be a good fit for his skills and interests.
Sidney and Natlon Montrel came to Jackson from New Orleans for Sidney’s employment with another company. Once here, they realized the community was absent an authentic Louisiana inspired restaurant. They soon put into motion correcting that by establishing Isabella’s Louisiana Bistro located at 1869 Hwy. 45 Bypass, Suite 1.
When asked by Sherika about offering Keith a chance to explore his interests in restaurant employment, Sidney and Natlon did not hesitate. “We felt like we had this opportunity to help someone and knew immediately it was something we should do,” said Natlon who manages the wait and kitchen staff while Sidney is the Executive Chef.
Keith was originally intended to be there helping as a dishwasher for a couple of days. Natlon saw his potential and was pleased with his job performance. There was an open position for a day shift dishwasher and she offered the job to Keith who was thrilled. Keith says “I like being around the other staff and enjoy earning a paycheck. I have my own code to clock in. My favorite task is putting the glasses at the server station.” He started out working 3 days a week and has since added another day. As Keith develops his skills and independence, he is supported by a Job Coach from MHDS, Tiffany Thompson.
When asked about the MHDS supported employment program, Natlon shared, “It opens your concept and way of thinking when you give an opportunity to someone who has not regularly been a part of integrated employment. It has been a wonderful experience and I would tell anyone in a position to make this opportunity available to someone to give it a try. It’s definitely a win/win for all concerned.”
Her husband, Sidney offered his thoughts as, “I have been very moved by watching the process and learning about MHDS. The staff is excellent and work well with Keith. You have a notion about persons like Keith but those were not accurate. Keith is very humble and a good communicator. He’s been a true asset to us.”
Rance, who had worked for many years with Keith in a facility based work program, expressed “I am so proud to see Keith excel in this employment opportunity. We should keep an open mind about what people are capable of and give them the chance to grow their skills and life experiences.”
William D. Brewer, Jr., has been with MHDS since 1977 and Executive Director since 2006. He says, “I am very appreciative of the Montrel’s and the staff at Isabella’s Louisiana Bistro for giving Keith a chance to advance the quality of his life. I feel that people with disabilities should be given the opportunity to succeed in employment and the Montrel’s should be recognized for giving them that chance.”
MHDS thanks Sidney and Natlon and all the staff at Isabella’s Louisiana Bistro for making Keith a part of their family. When you’re in the restaurant you know that’s exactly what they are and Keith is just the newest family member. When you have a chance to dine at Isabella’s, we hope you will enjoy the delicious food served with excellent customer service and tell them Keith’s story brought you there.
Please ask those you know in a position to make jobs available to those with developmental disabilities to be in contact with MHDS through Rance Thetford at 217.8052 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be pleased to find the right candidate for your employment needs among many deserving persons supported by MHDS looking to find a job.