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Queens Village center lands jobs for disabled

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Peaks and valleys used to rule the life of Jeanette Moore, a Floral Park resident saddled with bipolar disorder. In the past two years, however, thanks to a unique program in Queens Village, Moore has managed to carve out a steady path.

Medication helps the 34-year-old film processor and archivist recover from two strokes she suffered in the mid-’90s. Sobriety and 12-step programs enable her recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction. Paralysis grips the entire right side of her tall, slender frame, and aphasia inhibits her ability to speak. Her illnesses have forced her to carry an arm in a sling and a leg behind her wherever she walks.

Yet every weekday morning she gets up and goes to work.

Moore said the key to sustaining her equilibrium hinges on the job she has held for the past 22 months at Sign On Village - a psychiatric health program that includes a design production shop in an office strip overlooking Hillside Avenue.

“This is the first job I’ve had in 11 years,” Moore said. “The staff is outrageous. They’re so helpful ... I can’t explain it. I look forward to getting up in the morning, to see the people and to work.”

Sign On Village, established in January 2001 and funded by the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, provides employment opportunities for psychiatrically disabled clients currently receiving treatment at public and private hospitals and facilities throughout the borough and beyond.

A team of certified rehabilitation counselors led by Carmine Desena, the program’s director, evaluates clients’ work skills, personal traits and behavioral patterns. The individual is then matched with a suitable position.

Clients work in a wide range of occupations: computer technician, bank teller/rec­eptionist, teacher’s assistant, produce clerk. Success equates to at least 20 hours of employment a week until the individual accumulates 500 hours. Some clients hold jobs outside the program’s nucleus in Queens Village. Others like Moore work in the shop that produces signs and archives documents and film for businesses throughout the tri-state area.

“We really case manage each client we place,” Desena said. “We interact with their psychiatrist, their therapist, their families, the people who run their residences, anyone who has contact with that client.”

Sign On Village requires performance from both clientele and staff. Desena’s team must generate at least 27 successful placements each annual period. In the first four months of the current cycle, which began July 1, the program has already exceeded its minimum, producing a series of 32 personal victories in professional environments.

“I’ve always been thinking that my disability may prevent me from working, but that’s not true. I can work,” said Padmini C., a 51-year-old Jamaica resident who archives medical documents at Sign On Village. “This program has given me a stronger sense of belief in myself. It gives me a sense of worth, really.”

The production room features prototypes on the wall of signs produced for businesses such as the American Lung Association of Queens, Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg, CEBA Maintenance Service Corp. and Bright Beginnings Child Care Providers. Employees use state-of-the-art technology to create designs, generate hard copies and shape final versions. Some clients fill orders; others perform for evaluation.

“This program can be used to direct somebody to work in sign-making as a career or to help assess a person’s ability to go out to work in general,” said production supervisor Ken Klassert. “It’s more of a boutique business, as opposed to a large sign shop. We’re more interested in the individual task, because we want to teach people skills.”

Clients use computer programs such as Windows and Excel. They scan illustrations and create sophisticated Power Point presentations.

Charles S., 44, of Briarwood, organizes documents and arranges them for Moore to photograph.

“I feel like I’ve improved myself more and more so that I can shoulder more burdens,” said Charles S., who suffers from schizophrenia. “I have more goals that I’ve accomplished, and I have more going for me than I had before.”

In a room adjacent to the production shop, Moore leans over a well-lit table and photographs documents on microfiche. Later, she will develop the film, clear any smudges and store the product in a jacket.

“After my stroke, I wanted to die,” Moore said. “This program helped me to see myself as a better person. This staff pushes the client’s self-esteem. ‘You can do it.’ They never down us or, you know, knock us. They’re always helpful.”

For more information about Sign On Village or its products and services, please call the program at (718) 264-1789.

Reach reporter Joe Whalen by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 7:25 pm, October 10, 2011
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Reader feedback

Michael sadaka from Valley stream says:
I have known ken klassert for several years his devotion
And being a job boss is the most important thing to
A man who has been like a roll model to me and
A mentor. I was the lucky one who was toolledge
By the greatest boss in the whole world and now
I have my own social group and my own you
Tube channel.
Sept. 14, 2016, 5:44 pm

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