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Achieving Independence


Brian Trees’s passion for his work at Gallagher Services is fueled by knowing that a huge amount of talent is being wasted in this country. “Nationally, about 20 percent of people with intellectual disabilities work in competitive employment, and among those who aren’t working, half want to be working,” he said. “They have a lot to offer, but they aren’t considered as a resource for the job market.” Not only that—Brian said a recent study showed that 90 percent of employed individuals with disabilities were rated as average or above-average performers, and they are far less likely to leave their jobs and create turnover—powerful arguments for opening doors to employment.

Brian points to Shawn Haynie as a great example. About 20 years ago, Shawn lost a job at McDonald’s, and for the next 18 years he was unemployed. As someone accepting supports from Gallagher Services, Shawn was selected with his friend, Rudy Boston, to pilot a training program with Culinary Services Group, which provides food services to St. Vincent’s Villa. Now, Shawn works in the CSG commercial kitchen. His job packing boxed lunches puts him at the center of CSG’s COVID-19 pivot away from in-person food service. “He’s really good at that job,” Brian said. “His capabilities went unrealized for 18 years. By helping him to find the right job for his talents, where he could be successful, and providing some supports afterwards, our team made it possible for CSG to add an employee who benefits the company’s bottom line, and I would say the kitchen environment has gotten better because Shawn is there.”

In the past few years, Gallagher Services has shifted to an employer-engagement model of workforce development. Rather than simply scanning available jobs and training clients to fit a pre-set job description, the Gallagher team focuses on successes and relationships. They meet with employers, ask them to share detailed information on an available job, and come back to employers with someone who has the ability to succeed in that position. Kevin Creamer, who heads workforce development at Our Daily Bread Employment Center, sees Gallagher’s innovative approach as a model for serving his clients as well. He thinks the work to serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by empowering them to serve employers is groundbreaking, citing the ripple effect of compassion, engagement, understanding and access to build stronger communities – inclusive of individuals with disabilities. “We work to help our employers understand who we are, what we’re doing, and that they can do things differently, which may be better,” Kevin said. “It’s a time-intensive process, but it’s the right way to do it. It’s a fundamentally better system because it’s person-centered.”