Leaders offer up praise

ST. CLAIRSVILLE- The Belmont, Harrison, and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities (BHN Alliance) held an Employment First luncheon Friday afternoon to appreciate five local businesses who have hired people with disabilities. Employment First is a statewide initiative to make community employment the preferred outcome for individuals with developmental disabilities, signed into executive order by Governor Kasich in March of 2012. U.S. Representative Bill Johnson, State Representative Jack Cera, and State Representative Andy Thompson were in attendance to award U.S. House Proclamations and Ohio House Proclamations, recognizing the businesses for understanding the value and importance of hiring individuals with disabilities.

Present to receive the awards were Gary Holubeck and Jamie DeVault of St. Clair Lanes, Dean Holtsclaw and Pat Jobb of Walmart, Lisa Lucas and Ronda Canter of Burger King, Jay Mehlman and Yvette Gray of Mehlman’s Cafeteria, and Lesley Applegarth and Amanda Willis of New Horizon Animal Hospital. Pat Jobb and Yvette Gray both spoke about how important it is to have employment in their lives.

“You can be anything you want to be, just don’t let anybody sit you out,” Gray said.

“If you want to be independent you’ve got to work,” Jobb said and added that his employer Holtsclaw has been an inspiration in his life.

Also in attendance were Susan Pugh, Deputy Director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, Monty Kerr, Deputy Director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, Pete Moore, Service Initiatives Director for the Ohio Association of County Boards, Pamela McCort, Communications Coordinator for the BHN Alliance, and Stephen Williams, BHN Alliance Superintendent.

Pete Moore spoke about the Employment First initiative and stressed that it is about opportunity, and is not a sheltered workshop program. He said Belmont County has been doing particularly well.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson echoed the sentiment.

“I see real pioneers, people who have bravely set out to face challenges. They embody the American spirit,” Johnson said. He added that this initiative is unique and is not happening all over the country. “Everybody’s got value, you just have to look for it,” Johnson said in closing.