MANSFIELD, PA (WETM) – Finding employment can be difficult for people with disabilities.
“It’s very sad that in this day in age there is still discrimination on those types of levels,” explains Irene Morgan, Executive Director of Partners In Progress.
Partners In Progress in Mansfield PA provides job-skills training, supported employment, and day programs.
“It’s a segment of the community that is vastly underserved, very low unemployment numbers, especially in rural America and we are very rural in Mansfield,” Jennifer Lehman, Director of Business Operations at Partners In Progress.
But Morgan is working to change all that.
“We know that anything is possible here no matter who you are or what your disability is,” said Morgan.
She is dedicated to supporting her community by securing employment, train and get people with disabilities included in the community.
“Some of our people are old enough now that they were bullied through school and really not accepted in the community, and made fun of no matter where they went, and now they are working, earning a paycheck, and paying their bills and their taxes just like the rest of us,” Morgan said.
One of her success stories is about a woman in her program that reached her goals.
“She wanted which was a driver’s license and her own home and a job just like the rest of us,” Morgan explained. “She has worked very very hard and our staff has too with her and now she has a driver’s license she has a car she drives to work every day.”
For Morgan, this initiative hits close to home. Her son Micheal has Down Syndrome which opened her eyes to a problem in the community.
“When Micheal was born there wasn’t a lot of supports here so as he grew and his needs changed… we sorta needed to pave that way,” Morgan shared.
Her son may have gotten her started fighting for change but her motivation to help and protect reaches well beyond family.
“There is a lot this segment of the population that does not have advocates that work for them, Irene advocates for everybody,” said Lehman.
From retail to custodial services Partners in Progress opens employment opportunities to over one hundred people with disabilities, including work as a chocolatier at Highland Chocolates.
“It has a lot of quality to it,” shared Highland Chocolate Chocolatier Catterina Ace. “You see this factory and it’s like all you see is a house, then you come in and it’s like bam all you see is a bunch of chocolate that everyone has made.”
Those who work at Highland have become very close.
“We all feel like family,” Ace said.
Her nomination for the remarkable woman award was fitting according to those who are close to her.
“If she can help someone she is going to do it and she is just a fabulous role model for women,” Lehman said.
“She is a really really nice woman she helps me get through a lot of tough times,” said Ace.
But just the thought of being nominated brought this humble hero to tears.
“It’s overwhelming but it’s so… it’s wonderful to be perceived in that kind of a way that people think so much about you to nominate you for something like this,” Morgan said wiping the tears from her joyful face.