Born in Arkansas, and raised in Alabama, Todd Kinard still has a bit of southern sweetness to his voice even though he has spent his adult life in Houston, Texas and the Bay Area. In 2004 Todd lost his vision to complications associated with AIDS. Before this Todd worked as a waiter and a hairdresser. He moved to the Bay Area to be near a friend and to access a variety of services and healthcare that weren’t available back in Texas. After taking some computer classes, Todd got a job at the San Francisco Design Center working on a business to business application which allowed interior designers to peruse the inventory available at the Center. But the dot com bubble burst, and Todd lost his job.
Getting right back on the horse, he found a temporary one-year position at Catholic Charities CYO. The position was funded by stimulus money earmarked to prevent homelessness. Five organizations participated, and it was Todd’s job to input all the data and crunch the numbers that assessed the program’s effectiveness. Todd liked his colleagues and everything about the job, but too soon the one year concluded and the program ended.
After two years without a job, Todd discovered the Employment Immersion Program on the LightHouse’s web site. He had participated in job training programs before, but he was impressed with how many people had gotten jobs through the LightHouse’s program (35%), and was intrigued by our unique focus on low vision and blindness. He brought it up to his Department of Rehabilitation Counselor, John Grote who encouraged him to enroll.
Todd started the eight week program, led by Justine Harris-Richburgh, in November 2013. Todd thought the program’s interview practice was excellent and he learned the importance of networking and how to do it effectively. He loved his Employment Immersion cohorts, and found that as the oldest person in his group (in his 50s) with some real time work experience, he was sometimes able to take on a role of mentor. He also found Justine to be a patient and skilled facilitator, telling us, “One day I lost my temper and I blew up. I almost dropped out. Justine took me aside and we talked. I apologized for my behavior, and stuck with the class.”
Meanwhile Todd noticed a job posted on his old employer Catholic Charities CYO’s website that sounded perfect, but required Spanish language skills. Todd talked to some of his previous co-workers at the organization and told them outright that he wanted the job, though he was concerned that knowing Spanish was mandatory. His colleagues mentioned to the hiring manager, Megan Bolton, who had been Todd’s boss in his former role that Todd was looking for employment. Megan was so impressed with Todd’s persistence as well as his past performance that she created a new position just for him. “Before, I hated networking” said Todd. “Without the Employment Immersion class I would never have had the courage to contact my old colleagues and talk to them about that job posting.” Todd now works at Catholic Charities CYO in a permanent position in their Assisted Housing and Health Program for HIV and AIDS clients.
Justine said, “Todd brought a lot of honesty, bravery, humor and realness to the class by sharing his stories and experiences. In the class Todd learned that it is “OK” to put yourself out there. Todd is a rather shy person in a group setting, but as time went by, he opened up, encouraging others to do the same.”
Congratulations Todd! Perhaps you or someone you know is ready to take the leap and begin building skills and confidence? Our next Employment Immersion session begins Tuesday, March 18 and will take place at the LightHouse’s office at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. For more information, call Kate Williams at 415-694-7324 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.