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August SUCCESS BLOG – “By Helping Others, I Helped Myself” by Sara Neller

August 31, 2009

My story is about overcoming barriers to work. I have a condition which disables me, and so I have been receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for more than five years. I thought I could never work again.

But recently, I proved myself wrong.

In the distant past, I tried about 25 different jobs, but because of the disabling condition I have, my jobs each only lasted about a year. I learned many different “entry-level” job related skills, but never had the ability to stay with a job. I wondered why I didn’t fit in and felt so different.

Because I couldn’t work, I applied for SSDI. I was so grateful and relieved when I began to receive income from the program. For more than five years, I received SSDI and did not work.

In order to fill my weekday, daytime schedule I would keep my apartment organized and clean, write correspondence, run errands, read, and generally keep busy.

A change was about to take place.

Slowly, I began to volunteer at a local social service center. At first I went one day a week: Wednesdays. I went for four hours in the afternoon. Things went well. Months passed. A year passed. I surprised myself when I asked to also volunteer on Monday afternoons. That went well, too.

I enjoyed the center, my co-volunteers, the supervisors, and the public. I enjoyed my work duties and the pace. I started feeling good there. I started to spruce up the place when I had a chance. This was such a good time for me. It was leading me to try more.

One day, an acquaintance, who worked for another social service agency in town, asked me if I would like to volunteer there part-time. I thought that just maybe it would be okay to try more. I surprised myself again when I said yes. I volunteered two days a week: Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I liked the job very much. The staff and public were nice to work with, the mission of the agency was terrific, and the environment was comfortable. I could handle the pace of the work. This place felt good to me.

After I volunteered there for three months, I decided to ask if they would pay me for my work. They agreed. I just finished working there part-time for the month of August, 2009, and I have several pay-stubs I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t taken each step, slowly but surely, toward employment.

I would recommend trying this step-by-step approach to anyone who feels like getting more involved in their community.

I still receive the same monthly check from Social Security, and I am still grateful and relieved to have that income. The income from my part-time job is minimal, but it means a lot to me. I don’t know where it will lead next.

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