MOKA's Supported Employment program


David finds stability, learns flexibility at D&W with help of MOKA’s Supported Employment program 

After working for more than 20 years in fast food, David wanted more regular hours and more stability.

David was already in MOKA’s Community Living Supports when he joined the Supported Employment program seeking help with his job search. He found full-time employment in the deli department at D&W Fresh Market and worked throughout the pandemic.

David’s job helps him maintain his own apartment, and he is looking ahead to retirement. He recently enrolled in D&W’s 401K program, and with the help of his Job Developer Anna Litchfield, he set up an app so he can check his investments on his phone. 

 David started working at the 28th street store in Grand Rapids in October 2019 and juggles a variety of tasks in the deli. He was in charge of the salad bar but that shut down when the pandemic hit.

On a typical day, he prepares rotisserie chickens, pot pies, and other packaged chicken maintains the olive bar and makes deli chips and sides for the hot deli counter. He occasionally serves customers and said the job has helped him multitask and memorize numbers. He’s also called on to clean fryers and come to the rescue of coworkers.

David likes having consistent hours, weekends off, and his caring managers. One manager, Lori, even takes him to visit his parents, who now live in a retirement community.

“Lori and all the staff there, they are open-minded to hear about your feelings,” he says. “They care about your emotions and want to see your happy side.”

A previous job developer helped David find the job at D&W and go through the application and interview process. He was interested in working at D&W because Spartan Nash supports the Special Olympics and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion. “My heart told me to go there,” David says.

Anna started working with David in June 2020, and she mainly serves as a sounding board if he needs tips on talking to his managers or coworkers. Anna visits David on the job once a week and connects via Facetime or phone calls when he needs advice, encouragement, or reassurance.

“I think he’s grown a lot with working through problems,” Anna says. “We do a lot of talking through things, but a lot of times at the end of the conversation, I’m like ‘you already nailed it. You already knew what the steps were. You already knew what you had to do.’”

Anna has witnessed David’s growth on and off the job. He’s had to learn to juggle many tasks, including interacting with customers, and how to be more flexible. Despite all the challenges in 2020, Anna and David have established a rapport and friendship.

“He’s shown me he’s a really sweet and funny person,” Anna says. “He’s really good at his job. He’s always got a good joke in there for me every day. Just personally, I think he’s overcome a lot with this pandemic.”

The Supported Employment program provides individuals with the resources and support to not only find a job but stay successfully employed. Anna and other job developers help bridge the gap between individuals and employers and help work through any problems, whether it’s related to communication, conflict resolution, or scheduling and benefits issues.

“I think we try to do our best to meet them where they are at,” Anna says. “If they’re ready to job hunt, we start there. If they are looking for support at a current job site, we help them with whatever they need and whenever they might need it. We try to be very accommodating.”

David doesn’t drive so his job not only provides income but keeps him busy and gets him out of the house. He enjoys living on his own with his dog, Jenna, and plans to keep working for another 20 years, honoring his mom’s motto for him: Be the best you can be.

Story by Marla Miller. Photo by Lara Parent.