For Jennifer Madden, every work day is a holiday.
Jennifer is celebrating 14 years at Holiday Inn Express in Belen, New Mexico through Adelante’s EmployAbility program. “Every Sunday she talks about Monday morning, going to work,” says Molly Madden, Jennifer’s mother, who is also an Adelante board member. “That’s just part of Sunday night’s discussion.”
Jennifer had a few jobs here and there in during high school, but none of them really took. Working in Holiday Inn Express’ housekeeping department is “a match made in heaven” according to Molly, who found out early that Jennifer thoroughly enjoyed sorting and folding laundry.
Adelante has the largest and most successful supported-employment program in New Mexico for people with disabilities, matching skills and interests with employment opportunities. With a preference and priority for competitive employment in the community, Adelante appreciates the businesses that have welcomed and encouraged people with disabilities to become part of their teams.
“Jennifer is such a joy,” says Danelle Griego, General Manager of Holiday Inn Express. “She brings happiness to everybody when she comes in on Mondays and Fridays.” First thing after clocking in, Jennifer goes to Danelle’s office for a fist bump, a handshake, and to sign “Good morning”—a ritual they both look forward to.
“Jennifer has a good rapport with her co-workers, even the new ones that come in,” says job coach Erma Maes who has been working with Jennifer through Adelante for over 10 years. “When I first started, she was very quiet and just did her work,” Erma says of the positive effect the job has had on Jennifer’s social skills. “Now she’ll go and she’ll fist bump her co-workers and give them a handshake, and tell them ‘Good morning’ through sign language.” Employees who have been at Holiday Inn Express a long time know Jennifer’s hand signs, and the new ones are willing to learn.
Erma says the position has had a positive effect on Jennifer in other areas, too, including taking initiative, being more independent, and setting new goals. “Jennifer works on her tasks and learns new tasks every time she goes to work.”
Jennifer makes above minimum wage, and enjoys responsibly spending her hard-earned money. “She loves to go shopping and buy clothes. She loves to go to restaurants and eat,” Molly says. Jennifer’s most favorite thing is to go on airplane trips, including annual excursions to the Midwest to visit extended family. Jennifer was even able to pay her own way to her sister’s bachelorette party, and purchase a wedding gift.
Whether you’re a job coach or direct co-worker, Jennifer is great to work with. “She’s got a beautiful smile, and her laugh is contagious,” Erma says. “Working with Jennifer is a blessing. We’re considered the trainers or teachers, but people with disabilities also teach us. Every day you learn something new, and you learn a little bit about yourself, too.”
Adelante has been working on reducing the unemployment rates for people with disabilities for nearly 40 years, yet more than 70% of people with disabilities are not participating in the workforce in our country. We presume that people want to work, and Adelante believes there should be a full range of options available to ensure that everyone has opportunities to enter the workforce in the manner they choose.
If you’d like hire a person with a disability, or would like Adelante’s support in finding a job in the community, please contact Melinda Garcia at MGarcia@GoAdelante.org or (505) 341-7124.