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Leading the way in Supported Employment Initiatives for Adults with Disabilities

UPublish story by Crystal Brodzenski

AKRON, OHIO - The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy announced the official theme for October's National Disability Employment Awareness Month 2012: "A Strong Workforce is an Inclusive Workforce: What Can YOU Do?" The theme promotes the benefits of a diverse workforce that includes workers with disabilities, who represent a highly skilled talent pool. Buffie LaBelle, REM Ohio Area Director, has taken it upon herself to expand community-based employment options for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) in Summit and Stark Counties.

In January of 2012, Buffie was elected to the Ohio APSE Board due to her years of dedication, tireless advocacy, and hard work in the supported employment field for adults with I/DD. APSE is the only national organization with an exclusive focus on integrated employment and career advancement opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Their overall mission is to ensure that supported employment needs are met for all working age adults with I/DD that are interested in obtaining employment.

Buffie proudly follows the vital example of APSE each and every day. Along with leading by APSE’s example, she also ensures Governor Kasich’s Executive Order is carried out and available to each individual she serves. The Executive Order was signed in March of 2012 and establishes an employment first initiative for Ohioans with disabilities. Buffie carries out this specific imitative by creating fair paying and fulfilling jobs for persons with I/DD.

Under Buffie’s guidance, three vocational programs have been created since 2009. The first program in Akron (Romig Road) has grown rapidly and is currently at capacity with a waiting list for new participants. A second vocational program has opened in Canton (Maret Street) and a third recently opened in Akron (Manchester Road). The interests of each program participant are examined and customized work plans and goals are determined. Currently, the services offered from the vocational programs are janitorial services, lawn maintenance, document shredding and archiving, office cleaning, and woodworking (where picnic tables, swings and cornhole boards are custom built on site).

“Buffie continues to be an example of APSE and Governor Kasich’s Executive Order in regards to expanding community employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities,” says Jo Spargo, REM Ohio Regional Director. “She has provided so many opportunities to adults with I/DD over the 11 years that she has been with REM Ohio and continues to do so every day.”

In honor of Supported Employment Awareness month in October, REM Ohio would like to thank Buffie for her continued efforts in assuring that each individual served has the same opportunities as others. Her noble efforts in the Supported Employment field have changed the lives of so many over the years. She truly understands the meaning of helping those with I/DD live life to the fullest every day.

Individuals interested in learning more about the Opportunities Centers or scheduling a tour of the facilities are invited to call 330-644-9730. Those interested in obtaining more information on Disability Employment Awareness Month are invited to call 330.864.5895 or visit


About REM Ohio

REM Ohio provides an array of high-quality services for people with developmental disabilities and other complex conditions throughout the state, with a state headquarters located in Akron, Ohio and additional locations in Akron, Cambridge, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Troy, and Cincinnati. The company currently employs 394 part time and 857 full time employees. The individuals and families supported by REM Ohio have a variety of needs, all of which are met within the communities where they live, work, and play. Because each person’s needs and preferences are different – and often change over time – REM Ohio offers a range of community-based residential and non-residential programs and supports.

REM Ohio is a member of The MENTOR Network, an organization dedicated to providing high-quality, community-based services to adults and children of all abilities. Founded in 1980, The MENTOR Network has evolved from a single residential program to a national network of local human services providers, offering an array of services to adults and children with developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries or other catastrophic injuries and illnesses; youth with emotional, behavioral and medically complex challenges; and elders in need of home care.

About APSE

APSE is a growing national non-profit membership organization founded in 1988 as the Association for Persons in Supported Employment or APSE. APSE has chapters in 35 states and the District of Columbia. Members come from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, as well as several foreign countries. For more information on the Ohio APSE branch please visit:

About Opportunities Center

REM Ohio Opportunities Centers serve adults living with intellectual and developmental disabilities, offering placement in the Vocational or Social Curriculum.

The Opportunities Vocational Center offers a variety of education and work experience in small focus groups. The objective and goals are aligned to assist enrolled participants in acquiring needed vocational skills in the pursuit of community employment. In addition work crews, commonly referred to as “The Crew”, provide a real opportunity and paycheck. These work crews complete a number of on-site and off-site jobs, which furthers their independence within the local community. Each week, participants invest time and effort to improve work-related skills via classroom instruction, demonstration opportunities, and other employment preparation focused activities.

The Opportunities Social Center offers a customized itinerary of both community and on-site education and recreation events. Each participant’s unique interests, social networking skills, health and wellness objectives; in addition to community involvement interest is collected. From this information, many special interest groups and clubs are formed. Topics often include interests such as: cooking classes, music therapy groups, wellness and health sessions, computer learning clubs, and many more.


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