- Associated Press - Sunday, April 23, 2017

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (AP) - The Orangeburg County Disabilities and Special Needs Board recently presented its consumers with an opportunity to learn more about community services, their rights as contributing citizens and ways they can become gainfully employed.

Consumers gathered at the OCDSNB office on Magnolia Street for an Educational Fair, which included participation by the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, the Orangeburg Area Boys and Girls Club, the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service-Savannah River and Orangeburg County Relay for Life.

James Young said he found the fair to be informative, adding that having a chance to work gives him self-esteem.



“It makes you feel a lot better for yourself. I pretty well like yard work, which I have a job right now doing yard work through Husqvarna. I work with the yard crew there. I’m really kind of hoping that works out,” Young said.

James McCord said he liked to do janitorial work.

“I want a job like that. I do good work. I want to do the right thing,” he said. “I’m not a lazy person that lays around. I like money in my pocket.”

McCord, who lives with his sister, added, “I’m trying to get a little apartment for myself. I’d like to do something for myself.”

Anthony Rauch, a behavioral consultant with the OCDSNB, presented consumers with information on voting, health and other rights.

“I think our community both in Orangeburg and statewide forget that folks have rights even though they have a disability. A lot of times that’s not shared with them, and we assume they know. So it our responsibility to share all the rights they have,” Rauch said. “Our job is to educate everybody - the consumers and the community.”

One of the consumers told Rauch all he wanted to do was get his foot in the door, to which he replied, “If you get your foot in the door, the rest is yours.”

Tammy Terrell Robinson, a public affairs specialist with the USDA Forest Service-Savannah River, said she did not let being legally blind deter her goals.

She disseminated information about careers with the USDA Forest Service, along with information on Schedule A, a special authority federal agencies use in the non-competitive process for hiring disabled people.

“I was able to work with the federal government based on Schedule A for people with disabilities. You don’t have to hide your disability. We employ all people,” Robinson said.

Laura Washington, executive director of the Orangeburg Area Boys and Girls Club, said advised consumers about volunteer opportunities designed to enrich the lives of 6- to 18-year-olds.

“We serve the whole child. We do character leadership, healthy lifestyles, education and career (development) and sports, fitness and recreation. Volunteers, especially organizations like the Disabilities Board, can come in and actually do hands-on things with the kids,” Washington said.

Comey Fields, one of the consumers, said she wanted to work with children, particularly disabled children.

“I got a special need and I got a cousin who’s special needs. He’s autistic. So I like working with autistic kids and stuff,” Fields said.

She added, “I think it’s nice that they give us a chance in life. I’m excited. Some people say, ‘You can’t do that.’ Yes you can. There’s no such word as can’t. I was taught that a long time ago, so it’s nowhere in my vocabulary.”

Frank Williams, who’s in the OCDSNB’s enclave program, provides janitorial services at the Orangeburg County Library and the Orangeburg County Clemson Extension Office. He said he enjoys making his own money and having his own apartment and doesn’t like having to depend on others.

“I like what I do. I like cleaning. I’m doing good. I have my own place. I can drive. I pay my own bills. Just because a person calls themselves normal, we can do the same thing they can,” Williams said.

Jacki Thomas, a breast cancer survivor who represented the Orangeburg County Relay for Life at the fair, offered a message of hope and survival to the consumers. Relay for Life is the American Cancer’s signature fundraising event, with the local event scheduled on April 28 at the Orangeburg County Fairgrounds.

“When you give of your dollars, it goes to help others,” Thomas said.

Shirley Ford, a member of the OCDSNB’s Family Advisory Council, attended the fair with her adult son, Ronald. She said he enjoys the Disability Board’s day program activities and she attended the fair to get as much information as she could for him.

“He loves coming here,” Ford said.

Shardonay Morgan, a senior social work major at South Carolina State University who interns at the OCDSNB, came up with the idea of having an educational fair as her school macro project.

“I hope that people with disabilities will know that that doesn’t exclude them from different job opportunities they could potentially get,” Morgan said. “There are a lot of resources that provide information for them. They can do whatever they want to do. There’s no limit.”

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This story has been corrected to show that the reporter’s name is Dionne Gleaton, not Donnie Gleaton.

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Information from: The Times & Democrat, https://www.timesanddemocrat.com

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