Helping those with developmental disabilities train for, find and thrive in a job is Triumph Services’ mission, but it turns out, the employers who work with Triumph’s participants benefit too.
Triumph Services was established in Birmingham in 2007 as a nonprofit organization providing programs to support people who have developmental disabilities and expanded to Montgomery in 2016. “We saw there was a need in the community and decided to open an office there,” said Executive Director Beth Zaiontz.
From the beginning, programs have sought to enhance skills at home, at work and in relationships to help participants thrive independently. “It’s always been a holistic approach,” Zaiontz said.
The work component focuses on preparing for and providing competitive employment. Zaiontz said the organization works through the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) as it trains and places individuals, and their support extends through hiring and beyond. “We give them a lot of training prior to taking on these jobs – hopefully setting them up for success.” In addition, she said, “We actually find the employment and support them in that job.” That includes checking in with a supervisor to see if the position continues to be a good fit or if any issues are arising.
Participants can come through private pay or by referral from the ADRS. “They have to have a developmental disability to qualify for our services. We predominately focus on the autism spectrum, but it could be any,” Zaiontz said. Skill sets vary, and in some cases participants may have bachelor’s or master’s degrees or other professional training but need help adjusting to a work environment.
To date, 17 employers in the River Region have been part of Triumph’s work-placement programs. Among them is Chappy’s Deli, which has a nearly 20-year track record of hiring individuals with developmental disabilities. “We just try to treat everybody the same,” said David Barranco, one of the owners of the restaurant, which has four locations in the River Region and one in Auburn. “We know everybody needs a jumpstart sometime to keep going.”
In turn, Barranco said that the employees have been good for the business. “They have been bright spots for us.” Noting the gratitude and appreciation they bring to the workplace, he added, “It helps them, it helps us, and customers embrace them.”
Stamp Idea Group also welcomed a new employee with the assistance of Triumph Services. David Allred, agency principal and managing director, said that he had been invited to attend a breakfast where he heard from other businesses who had used Triumph Services. When the agency needed assistance taking care of their facilities, they met with a Triumph Services employment specialist and presented a list of needs. “She took a lot of notes,” Allred said. “It’s a lot like working with a professional recruiter.” The employment specialist knew the Triumph candidates who would be a good fit, and she arranged for interviews.
Allred said that when hiring people, he has a standard set of questions he asks, and he decided to ask John Faulkner, his future employee, those same questions. “His answers were very different than what we usually get,” Allred said. “They were honest. His answers in some cases were funny. It was very refreshing.”
Allred realized that Triumph was also evaluating Stamp and whether the business would be a good fit for their candidate. “I was just very impressed with that thoroughness,” he said. He also pointed out that if any problem occurs, the employment specialist would mediate the issue. “That’s not something you get with your existing employees. You have to do that yourself,” Allred said.
For his part, Faulkner said he enjoys his work at Stamp. “The people are very nice. They always tell me if I need to take a break, I can.” Cleanliness is imperative in this time of COVID-19, and Faulkner said that some of his work is “wiping down door handles, thermostats—anything that’s high contact so no one gets infected.”
He also maintains the kitchen areas, keeping a steady supply of snacks and drinks. “I’m in charge of restocking those, making sure there is enough of everything,” he said. “The work isn’t too much. I still have plenty to do. It’s not so much that I’m overwhelmed.”
“It’s been nice for us,” Allred said. “There are a lot of tasks that need to get done that he fills in.” As Allred sees it, no two staff members are alike, and the differences one employee might have over another is common for any workplace. “It’s important to remember that everybody you work with is different,” he said.
“It’s important to remember that everybody you work with is different.” - David Allred
“We give them a lot of training prior to taking on these jobs—hopefully setting them up for success. We actually find the employment and support them in that job.” - Triumph Executive Director Beth Zaiontz