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INDIANAPOLIS — A small Indy-based non-profit makes it their mission to do big things for those living with disabilities in helping them land a job they want. 'Help the World Foundation' weeds out the bad to get to all of the good for the Hoosiers they serve.
Alec Standhardt is at your service at the Indianapolis Downtown Marriott. As an "At Your Service Agent," he is the guests' right-hand man to help with anything they need while staying at the hotel.
"My passion is here, I love the hotel business, I love helping people," says 21-year-old, Standhardt.
His work ethic and drive make him a great employee despite what some people may see with Standhardt as a physical challenge.
"They just look at my disability, write me off as well I can't do this, and I can't do that, but if you speak to me for five minutes, mentally I have it," explains Standhardt.
Standhardt was born with a congenital condition called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenital, it causes his joints to be stiff and often immobile, and it gives him a severe lack of range of motion. For him, Standardt has minimal use of his hands and arm.
This made getting a job more of a challenge for Standhardt, although he is perfectly able to work.
"Just labeling us people, labeling people with disabilities just as a person with a disability is not ok to me, especially if I am more qualified than people who they are hiring," explains Standhardt. "When you go through so many interviews, and you keep getting told, 'No, we have better hires,' I can see right through it, I can see that the only reason you didn't hire me was because you were afraid."
Standhardt got to connect to Help the World Foundation to help him through his job application process. Help the World provides employment services to people of all abilities needing support every step of the way of the job search and hiring journey.
"When someone starts a job, we start it too, when they work, we work," explains Kara Critchlow, the Lead Employment Specialist at the Central Indiana Help the World Foundation. "We have some that just need help to get back into the workforce, and we have others that need a lot more intervention, and we are on-site a lot longer than we are with others, it just depends on the person."
Help the World Foundation assists with the job search and stays with you once you land the job to help you grow at your company and pursue your career goals.
"We have a huge range of abilities," says Critchlow. "Some of the guys I am working with right now have master's degrees and are just had brain injuries; others were born with developmental disabilities."
Critchlow says the foundation's biggest goal is to remove the barriers and challenges employers may think they have when hiring a person with a disability.
"We make it easier for some of those employees and employers," says Critchlow. "Removing some of that stigma, that maybe they need more staff hours or need more attention, it might cost more. We are there to kind of absorb that and say, 'No, it's just like anybody else.'"
The foundation also helps employees with transportation needs, accommodations to help them on the job, and works with employers on proper scheduling with the employees' needs.
"Really, a lot of it is the outside opinion, of getting people to look past the disability and give people a chance," says Critchlow.
Help the World works with local partners and employers to find the right job with the right environment. One of those companies is the Indianapolis Marriott.
"I don't view Alec or anyone else as having a disability, I view them as an applicant, as someone that interviewed extremely well, had great work experience, and I don't differentiate when it comes to that," explains Christina Smith, the Human Resources Director at the Indianapolis Marriott and White Lodging. "I think Alec has been a great addition, and I don't see differences there. He does a fantastic job, he has actually been cross-training at the front office as well, so hopefully one day, we will see him behind the desk someday."
The hotel business is Standhardt's dream job, and he is working to move up the ladder at the Indianapolis Marriott to one day get the opportunity he has always wanted.
"I will go to the ends of the earth if it means that I will be the last one of contact, that is what we are here for," says Standhardt. "My dream job, is to be a manager at a hotel. I think it would be great for people, not just people with disabilities, but people period. If I can do it, you can too."
Help the World is always in need of volunteers or human services interns; they are also in desperate need of gently used business clothing or monetary donations to provide extra programming for job skills training.
The Central Indiana office of Help the World is located at 1201 North Post Road, there are also offices in Gary and in Evansville. Since 2017, Help the World has helped 50 Hoosiers land employment in the state.
The Indianapolis Marriott is also currently hiring for an array of open positions.