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Breaking barriers and opening opportunities for interns with unique employment needs

Breaking barriers and opening opportunities for interns with unique employment needs

Some Okaloosa County residents are getting to experience the joy of having a job thanks to one woman with a knack for reusing things and a vision, and all Beth Ostroff sees are possibilities.

"I don't see their disability. So, when they walk in the front door, everybody knows, there is no disability. Don't use that as an excuse," she said.

No excuses - that's the founding principle when Beth started the Jobs4U program almost three years ago. They train interns who have unique employment needs, like developmental or physical challenges.

"We teach them fine motor coordination. We teach them attention to detail. They have to clock in and out of work. They have to get direction from their supervisor, get along with co-workers," she said.

The interns also find their talents here.

Albert Rohn is a master disassembler. He can tear apart anything, and I do mean anything. He's been doing this since he was 11 years old.

Beth and her team are teaching him how to use his skill to make a living. He knows the ins and outs of everything electronic.

Albert had the know-how, but here he's also learned that the more he does the more he's rewarded.

The board members of the nonprofit will tell you that Beth's number one goal is to remove all barriers. Sylvia Vazquez is amazed at what simple adaptations will allow a person to accomplish.

"There's a young lady that she's teaching to sew that they've redone the sewing machine because she can't use her feet. So, she uses her back now and that was an amazing feat for them to be able to come up with because she wants to be a seamstress," she said.

The interns are paid a small salary during the six months they're here in training. They also get a commission on everything they produce and sell.

Beth is all about making use and reuse of everything. That's why she based this operation on recycling.

"People who are getting rid of their computers. People who are getting rid of broken toasters, broken chairs, broken tables, picture frames, that one earring you don't know what to do with. We take anything," she said.

Business leaders have taken note of Jobs4U and Beth hopes that leads to permanent jobs for the interns in the community. Donna Montalvo met Beth through through a mentoring program of the Chamber of Commerce and was so impressed, she joined the volunteer board of directors.

"She brings the heart. They just need to learn maybe a different way. So, she's teaching us while she's teaching everybody else to make a difference," she said.

It's when they make that difference and the interns are making their own way that Beth is the proudest.

"It's like almost watching your own child grow up and go off on their own and be successful. You know, you don't get a better feeling than that," she said.

For more information, call (850) 226-1994.

Angels In Our Midst is sponsored by Nemours Children's Specialty Care.

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