new hire

SPRINGFIELD – The blue ribbon waiting to be cut was clearly not the focus of Opportunity Services open house. Rather, Waleska Font-Otero’s big smile and bright orange shoes were. Her flats with bow sparkle seem to symbolize her status as a satisfied recent hire in Springfield’s job market.

This was what Thursday’s celebration in Springfield Technology Park was about — promoting the employment of disabled adults. Font-Otero, who has a hearing impairment, was hired this month, with the help of Opportunity Services, as a 30-hour, part-time worker at Granite City Electric Supply Company. She works nights in the family-owned company’s warehouse on Fisk Avenue, sorting and scanning items for shipping for $13 an hour.

The 44-year-old single mother of three was a bit shy, but all smile as she talked about being the family breadwinner and already knowing many of the warehouse products.

“She’s excellent,” said Judy King, the shipping supervisor at Granite City who interviewed and hired Font-Otero. “She is high energy and a good worker.”

 King’s feedback is what Kathleen “Kat” Mangiafico seeks in her job as Opportunity Services’ supervisor of supported employment. The company, which has operated for decades in Minnesota and Florida, recently opened an office in Springfield. It serves individuals referred by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission with which it has a two-year contract.

Mangiafico’s networking has already placed about a half-dozen individuals with area employers, and in June she will offer a series of workshops to help future employees prepare for employment. Her aim in helping the disabled become hired is one of collaboration.

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