Jewish Family and Children’s Service honors successful individuals in Supported Employment Special…

Jewish Family and Children’s Service honors successful individuals in Supported Employment Special Needs program

Six people were honored at the 11th annual JFCS Dubrow Vocational Celebration Breakfast at the Katz JCC last Friday.

Shaquanah Boroughs speaks to the audience after receiving an award at the 11th annual JFCS Dubrow Vocational Celebration Breakfast last Friday at the Katz JCC.

At the age of 15, Shaquannah Boroughs’ life was changed forever when she was involved in a school bus accident. Prior to the accident, Boroughs had a very strong memory. However, after suffering a traumatic brain injury in the accident, Boroughs began having short-term memory loss. Years after the accident, the injury impacted Boroughs’ ability to gain meaningful employment and become an independent adult.

Last year, Boroughs got an assist with the help of the Jewish Family and Children Service Supported Employment Special Needs program. Working with her coach, Betsy Wahlquist, Boroughs was able to land a job at XPO Logistics, a transportation and logistics services company, in its Logan Township warehouse.

Today, Boroughs is succeeding at XPO Logistics. Not only has she become a valuable employee, she has just purchased her first car and got her driver’s license.

“I can stop taking the bus,” Boroughs said with a smile. “I have to get up at 4:30 every morning, and I only work seven minutes away.”

Boroughs was one of six special needs individuals honored last Friday at the 11th annual JFCS Dubrow Vocational Celebration Breakfast. Held annually at the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill, the breakfast recognizes individuals who have achieved success in the workplace with the help of the JFCS’ Supported Employment Special Needs program. Samost Jewish Family and Children Service of Southern New Jersey is a Cherry Hill-based nonprofit social service agency operating as part of the Jewish Federation of Southern New Jersey.

The breakfast serves a number of purposes beyond honoring successful individuals. The companies who hire each of the honorees receive awards for giving individuals with special needs a chance.

“It’s giving someone who may not have been given chances in the past an opportunity to shine and follow their dreams,” JFCS Executive Director Marla Meyers said. “They get so much more than they ever thought they would. It’s very beneficial to the individual and the team at the company.”

All of the honorees had different stories, but shared a number of traits in common. They all had a strong work ethic, positive attitude and enthusiasm for their job.

Michael McGowan, director of operations at XPO Logistics, spoke of how valuable Boroughs is to the company.

“She’s very motivated to do a good job,” he said. “She wanted to learn, she was very patient, she asked a lot of questions. She’s very interested in her attention to details.”

A few Cherry Hill-based businesses have partnered with the JFCS program. One of these is Rockhill Restaurant in Route 70. One of its cooks, Walter Endicott, was recognized on Friday.

Walter Endicott (middle), stands with his job coach, Betsy Wahlquist, and his employer, Andrew Welder from Rockhill Restaurant in Cherry Hill, after receiving an Employee Achievement Award at the 11th annual JFCS Dubrow Vocational Celebration Breakfast last Friday at the Katz JCC.

Endicott was born with neurological impairments resulting in a number of cognitive and physical disabilities. He was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis at the age of 10 and a brain tumor at the age of 17. After Endicott had surgery and chemotherapy to remove the tumor, doctors thought he wouldn’t be able to work.

Despite these challenges, Endicott was determined to become a chef. In 2015, he enrolled in the JFCS Soups and Sweets Culinary Training Program. This 200-hour training program gives individuals food service skills needed to be employed at local restaurants.

After completion of the program, Endicott was placed in an externship at Rockhill. Endicott was so successful, he was hired as a permanent employee.

“He’s literally just like everybody else,” said Andrew Welder of Rockhill Restaurant. “He brings the dedication and a singular focus to be great. It’s infectious.”

Rockhill continues to hire externs from Soups and Sweets, with a number of the externs going on to be hired at the restaurants. Welder said the Soups and Sweets externs fit in perfectly with the rest of the staff.

“Our staff doesn’t turn over, and we believe very strongly in supporting each other,” Welder said.

A major goal for JFCS moving forward is to convince more local companies to hire special needs individuals. Meyers said many special needs individuals provide skills and backgrounds other job candidates may not.

“Sometimes they bring more to the job than the typical person,” Meyers said. “For example, a person with autism has the ability to do repetitive tasks without it getting boring. They’re comfortable in that setting.”

“We need to be see beyond our typical lenses, which say that people with special needs have limitations, and we need to see the limitless potential that exist and invite that in,” Meyers added.