407-645-5933 ext. 236 marisa.west@shalomorlando.org

By: Loren London, Founder and Director of RAISE & Rachel Slavkin, Director of Employment and Education

Our RAISE (Recognizing Abilities and Inclusion of Special Employees) mission is to build confidence, promote independence, and teach employability skills to adults with special needs and provide guidance and support to their families.  Once in the RAISE family, always in the RAISE family is at the heart of everything we do.  Discouraged and unsuccessful in entering the workforce, RAISE is proud to help our ‘family members’ become recognized and valued members of our community.

By March 2020, we were well aware of our need to pivot and provide virtual support and learning opportunities for the largest number of RAISE applicants since our inception in 2012. Teaching online has allowed us to expand our impact and offer RAISE Your Skills, pre-employment training to prepare participants to enter the workforce. Participants are matched with volunteer job coaches to practice and reinforce the learned skills. We have seen the importance of these personal connections and how they have helped build the self confidence of our participants.

Recognizing the more challenging role of our job coaches, we have also created a virtual educational opportunity providing advanced training for best practices led by professionals in the field. In addition, aware of the high risk for depression and increased anxieties felt by our families, we started an emotional support group, RAISE Your Voice. Our team saw this need and jumped at the opportunity to provide an online forum that connects families with professionals for much needed support and guidance.

There is no better way to share the impact of RAISE than in just one of the many testimonials we have received in the past from grateful family members.

A loving brother tells Alex’s story best:

“Alex had been in and out of jobs for years with no success. After 6 months of getting nowhere with dozens of agencies and community programs, I found RAISE. In the interview, I could tell the team knew all the resources in Orlando and amazingly, helped move the dial before the program began. Instantaneously, we were adopted into the RAISE family. Suddenly, we had a plan, a support network, and a Rolodex of caring people. Doors began to open; we started to see the light. The quality of his job coaches was beyond anything I could have expected. This free program and coaching would have cost thousands elsewhere. He even received a weekly paycheck! Alex learned how to interact with bosses, handle stress, and provide good customer service. As we leave, we still feel a part of the RAISE family. I have never seen a more caring organization.”

As RAISE continues to foster a culture of inclusion, we are proud of the meaningful impact we are having on personal dignity as our participants strive to reach their potential. A nationwide pause in hiring opened the door for RAISE to provide valuable pre-employment training to adults with special needs. When we can safely meet in person, we look forward to resuming our original RAISE format, offering social skills classes and paid, job coach supported employment training at 7 locations. During these challenging times of divide, more than ever before, inclusion of adults with special needs, empowering families, and celebrating diversity in our workplace will help us continue to build a united community guided by our values of making the world a better place.