The New Era - All about Sweet Home since 1929

Local employer finds Sunshine alum does ‘excellent job’


August 9, 2016

JAY KEESEE strips trim from a horse trailer under guidance from his employer Troy Waggoner, owner of Sweet Home Automotive and Restoration. The business is restoring the trailer. Keesee is the second person placed in a job under the requirements of the Employment First mandate.

Jay Keesee can’t stand sitting around and not working.

He has a learning disability that makes it a little difficult for him to find a job, but Troy Waggoner, owner of Sweet Home Automotive and Restoration located next door to Sunshine, didn’t hesitate when he had the chance to hire Keesee through Sunshine Industries.

Keesee, 34, has previously been a Sunshine Industries client, but his placement came through the state Vocational Rehabilitation Department on contract with Sunshine. Keesee most recently was employed by CO-Opportunity, a sheltered work site like Sunshine Industries. He was displaced when it closed.

He also has worked at National Frozen Foods in Albany and Wei-tech, Inc., in Sisters.

When he lost his job, he turned to Vocational Rehabilitation, which in turn contracted with Sunshine Industries. Under a state mandate called Employment First, Sunshine is charged with placing clients at jobs in the community earning at least minimum wage.

“I love to work,” Keesee said, but he has been without a job for two or three months.

“I was biting my fingernails, waiting to go back to work,” he said. “I’ve been to interviews, but I never got hired.”

He believes his learning disability played a small part in his difficulty finding work, Keesee said. If someone tells him something, he has to have them repeat themselves before he gets it.

Keesee loves learning, and this has been a learning experience for him, he said. “It’s good. I like it. I like the people I work with.”

He plans to get a license someday, he said, “so I’ve got to learn to work on them.”

For Waggoner, hiring someone through Sunshine Industries was a no-brainer.

“My brother, I’ve seen him go through programs like this,” Waggoner said. “Everybody has a hidden talent. It’s just everybody’s got to be given the opportunity. Everybody deserves a chance.”

Society doesn’t always provide that chance, he said.

“He wants to be involved in everything,” Waggoner said. “He does an excellent job.”

If he has to ask multiple times how do something, that’s all right by Waggoner, he said. “I’d rather him ask to be sure.”

He was raised learning that no question was a dumb question, and asking questions ensures a job is done right, which is most important in his line of work, Waggoner said. When a job’s done right, everyone’s happy, and his employees can be proud of what they accomplished.

“It takes patience,” Waggoner said. “If you don’t have any patience, you’re not going to get anywhere.”

With patience, it pays off.

Keesee has mainly been cleaning up around the shop, Waggoner said. A self-starter, whenever Keesee finishes a job, he’s looking for something else to do.

Waggoner wants to do more, he said. He is hoping to move into a larger facility and hire additional employees through Sunshine as well as high school students, offering internships to them to help them get some experience.

“I didn’t learn this overnight,” Waggoner said.

He officially opened his shop in May. He had operated a shop in Sweet Home years ago.

“This is a really great opportunity for (Keesee),” said Brittany Donnell one of two job developers at Sunshine Industries. “(Waggoner) was all about it from Day 1.”

After three months, the point where a placement is designated “successful,” Keesee may become independent of Sunshine and Vocational Rehabilitation, Donnell said, which will stop providing resources and support.

“Jay doesn’t need on-site job coaching,” Donnell said.

Others in the program may require support going forward, including resources outside of work and on-site job coaching, she said. Linn County Developmental Disabilities picks up the long-term coaching if necessary.

The goal is to move all of its clients into mainstream jobs, she said. Right now, Sunshine has had six referrals. Two have been placed. Two ceased receiving the service because they stopped participating, and two need to be placed.

For more information about the program, contact Sunshine Industries at (541) 367-2765.


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