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April 29, 2010 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Sherri Richardson adopts a new hope and dream every day — but not her own. These wishes belong to the hundreds of disabled people she has assisted who have come into her office with one desire — to find employment.
Before becoming Job Point’s lead business consultant, Richardson started her career in the ’90s in Washington, where she worked for the No. 1 employment agency for the disabled in the state. Her proudest success story there includes creating a promotions job with the Seattle Mariners for a woman with Down syndrome. “Every person is just like you and I; they’re no different,” she says. “I help find the environments they need by listening and giving very specific, individualized help.”
Transferring back to her home state last summer, Richardson brought to mid-Missouri a more progressive West coast philosophy. Instead of focusing solely on sheltered work, Richardson is
also pushing for a movement centered on community-based employment for the disabled, something that Washington has been doing for nearly 20 years, she says.
In the past, she established relationships and created jobs attractive to both job seekers and employers. Now, she hires and teaches job developers her methods. “We used to focus on traditional job searching, such as helping clients look through job listings, but now we also focus on building and creating relationships with local businesses,” Matthew Harris, Job Point job developer, says of the recent changes Richardon has brought to the company.
According to Richardson, the key to creating a successful partnership is making simple and individualized adjustments to job descriptions and explaining the benefits of hiring the disabled to the employer. Instead of throwing clients into just any job, Richardson aims to place them into a field that they not only enjoy but also will be productive in. For instance, she once created a position for a man to attend to a company’s printers. The company then raised profits because it has never had printer problems.
Her work isn’t easy. It’s a job that requires patience, determination and a positive attitude. Although she’s seen many triumphs, she has also witnessed heartbreaking tales, particularly when it comes to individuals with drug addictions. But in the end, when people come back saying, “You’ve made my dreams come true,” Richardson knows she’s doing her job.
“It’s a really hard job emotionally, but it’s an amazing gift to be a part of,” she says. “For me, it’s the best job.”