Hiring Hoosiers is a new initiative from RTV6 that works to connect Hoosiers to employment opportunities, career development resources, training programs and educational paths. In our Hiring Hoosiers reports we are taking a closer look at barriers to employment and things that get in the way of people getting the jobs they need to support themselves and their families. For more information, visit HiringHoosiers.com.
INDIANAPOLIS — An estimated 84 percent of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are unemployed. A survey by National Core Indicators says 60 percent of those people want to be employed.
Best Buddies is creating job opportunities for those facing employment barriers. An Indianapolis Best Buddies Jobs Participant, Kelly Gillespie, is working at MOD Pizza in Keystone.
“I love all my coworkers,” Gillespie said. “We call it, MOD Squad.”
MOD Pizza was started in 2008, with a mission to do good in the community.
“We really look to hire people that maybe get looked over by other people and just make a difference in our communities,” Nick Diffenbaugh, district manager of MOD Pizza Indianapolis said.
MOD Pizza hires Best Buddies Jobs participants across the country. However, this Indianapolis location was the first in the nation to make a hire with the organization. That hire was Gillespie.
The 25-year-old landed the job at the pizza shop with the help of her Best Buddies job coach, Kim Harvey.
“It is lining up the right job for that person and it is overcoming physical barriers to jobs,” Harvey said. “Our goal is to be these problem solvers, so what is keeping someone like Kelly from getting a job. And how do we get those no's to a yes. So we find ways to overcome those obstacles and create an opportunity for them to work in the community.”
According to Best Buddies, their job program has participants employed full-time and they contribute taxes back into the economy rather than costing the government money in federal Supplement Security Income and Medicaid support during that time period.
“We are discovering careers, we are experiencing things,” Harvey said. “We might visit existing participants in their jobs and one day be in an office, the next minute be at MOD Pizza, and just to see what kind of jobs that person might be interested in. It makes certain that they are getting a clear view of what is out there in the world for them.”
But for Harvey and other job coaches, to find and create opportunities in the workforce for people like Gillespie, Best Buddies needs to find employers willing to give them a shot.
“For one, you get great employees,” Diffenbaugh said. “If you take a chance on somebody that maybe everybody else overlooks, there is a bond that is formed there that really creates a good relationship between the employer and the employee. I think it is very important that people want to go to work and want to do a good job.”
Diffenbaugh has been in the restaurant industry for 20 years, and has never done a partnership like he has with Best Buddies Indiana.
“She interviewed just like anybody else,” Diffenbaugh said. “Honestly, she was the best candidate for the job, so we are really happy to have Kelly as part of the team.”
In Indiana, Best Buddies Job participants must have a referral from Vocational Rehabilitation, a state agency, or the Medicaid waiver in order to be eligible for services.
Best Buddies has a total of 11 people employed in 12 different businesses around Indianapolis and Harvey says they have an additional 14 people that are in the process of exploring and applying for a job.
The organization is currently taking new referrals and they offer long term support in the life of the participant’s job.
For more information on Best Buddies Job Participants, you can visit their website.
For applications to MOD Pizza, visit their
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