FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – “It’s changed my life,” that’s what 26 year old Markesha Jones said about the CORE program. The Fort Wayne nonprofit organization helps train young adults with disabilities to enter the workforce and gain meaningful employment.
As a Human Resources Assistant in the corporate office at Parkview Health, Jones makes follow up calls to new hires and handles other human resource responsibilities. She became disabled at the age of 9. “I am a quadriplegic and it was from a surgery I had in the back of my neck which is called a laminectomy,” said Jones. “It made me lose all my ability from the chest down.”
By using adaptive technology that doesn’t require her to use her hands Jones is able to work at Parkview Health. “There is a little dot called a mouse tracker and it goes on my glasses and it’s a mouse that can I actually use on the computer. Once I hover over it, it clicks and I can move anything on the screen.”
CORE provided Jones’ training. CORE stands for Connections, Opportunities, Resources, Experience. It started in 2009. Lori Heiges is one of its executive directors. “CORE is a vocational rehab provider for the state of Indiana,” said Heiges. “We started in Allen County and Fort Wayne and now we’re in 16 counties.”
As a former Fort Wayne Community Schools educator Heiges and other members of CORE work with many businesses to help the disabled have meaningful paid employment. “We want to show that there really are a lot of different employees out there, different people who are very capable of being an asset to a company,” said Heiges.
CORE generates money for training by selling donated business supplies to the community. It operates what it calls a CORE Resource Store. “It is located in the Habitat for Humanity restore,” said Heiges. “That’s where we sell all types of stuff from supplies to craft materials, educational supplies, teacher resources and we give that back to the community at a great savings to them. Proceeds help fund our programs to help the disabled.”
Heiges said Jones has been with CORE for about a year. The former Ivy Tech student works 26 hours a week. Eventually she’d like to branch out and add something else to her resume. “I’m now working on trying to do voice acting,” said Jones. “But I’m still going to stay here. I like it.”
“These individuals are more than just a disability. They have quite a bit to offer our community,” said Heiges.
“Working here at Parkview,” said Jones, “Feels absolutely amazing. I love it.”
Over its 11 years, CORE has worked with about 100 young adults who have disabilities. Check out the CORE website to learn more about how its impacting northeast Indiana.