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Job prospects for disabled get boost from cyclists

Job prospects for disabled get boost from cyclists

Group stops in Schenectady to honor Golub Corp.

A group of advocates for the disabled who are pedaling across New York to boost employment opportunities for the disabled stopped Thursday at the Price Chopper/Market 32 headquarters to thank the supermarket chain for doing just that.

The parent corporation, Golub Corp., was singled out not just for hiring people with disabilities, but for starting a program to train them how to land and retain jobs, either at one of the supermarkets or elsewhere.

The program — Hiring AdvantEdge — is now a year old and Golub Corp. is offering other companies a chance to see how it works so they can adapt it for their own use, said Mike Miller, Golub’s vice president of human resource operations. 

He said the company has hired hundreds of people with disabilities through various channels, and they are great assets. A blind employee at the Market Bistro in Latham is a customer favorite, for example, and an employee with Down syndrome who is a “rock star” at the Price Chopper in Rutland is also a leader at the local ARC.

Miller said about 20 Golub employees have gone through Hiring AdvantEdge, a program he is excited about. 

“It’s a career fair where individuals with disabilities come into a classroom environment as applicants and we take them through a series of curricula like how to interview, how to write an effective resume, and we show them what a career in retail is like,” Miller said.

Partner agencies including ARC, BOCES and ACCESS-VR identify clients who want to take part, and also work to prepare their clients for the workforce. Miller noted as an example that Liberty ARC's Fresh Market in Montgomery County gives its clients a taste of what the business world is like; two have graduated to work at the Amsterdam Price Chopper.

When the Hiring AdvantEdge event is over, some of the participants will decide they want to work somewhere other than a supermarket, and that’s OK too, Miller said.

“That’s the BLN [Business Leadership Network] vision: This isn’t just about us — this is about that type of model working statewide for all types of businesses.

"We’re benefiting from it as a company because we believe in what we do but as a member of the BLN, I envision other companies doing this.”

He noted that CVS sat in on the most recent event.

The New York Business Leadership Network [BLN] was created by the Our Ability Alliance, a Glenmont-based organization devoted to employment and empowerment of people with disabilities. Golub Corp. is among the BLN members.

Leading the ride across New York state are John Robinson and Doug Hamlin, CEO and vice president, respectively, of Our Ability, and they made a scheduled stop outside the Golub headquarters Thursday, the next-to-last day of the tour. Both men were effusive in praise of Golub’s hiring practices.

“They’ve been awesome,” Hamlin said. “They’re just such a family-oriented company, a community-oriented company.”

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Hamlin, now 57, has lived with limitations more than half of his life, having been paralyzed from the mid-torso down in a trampoline accident in his early 20s. 

“I was lucky, I had a job I could go back to,” he said.

This is his fifth ride across the state to raise awareness of those who don’t have the same opportunities he did after he became paralyzed.

Robinson said Golub has become a model for what Our Ability wants to accomplish.

“They’re fulfilling our dream,” he said.

Our Ability was working with one company five years ago, when it staged its first ride across New York state to raise funds and awareness. Today, he said, it works with 30, and its goal for next year is 60.

Robinson, 48, who has no hands, short arms and very short legs, sees the annual ride as a metaphor for his mission: The trail across the state is better each year as the state Canal Corp. improves it, but it still needs work. Each year, there are rainstorms and mosquitoes. And each year, he’ll come to a high sidewalk with no curb cut to ease passage for his arm-cranked recumbent cycle.

“During that moment it is a struggle,” he said, “but you overcome.

“That is the symbol of a person with a disability looking for employment.”

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