The disabled live their dreams through 'Learning Opportunities'

James Allen sweeps up sawdust and other scraps at Hartzell Hardwoods.

On the heels of Disability Employment Awareness month, a few local workers with disabilities share their stories.

James Allen has never had an easy time finding jobs.

"You know it's kind of hard for a person like me to get a chance in the community,â?? said Allen.

His disability always seemed to hold him back

But thanks to an organization called Learning Opportunities/Quality Works, that has all changed.

Now Allen works for Hartzell Hardwoods, and he's grateful for every moment.

"I was lucky to get a job like this, I was happy to keep a job like this, and it's one of these jobs that you don't get very often,â?? said Allen.

But he isn't the only lucky one. Learning Opportunities has coordinated work arrangements for hundreds of individuals with disabilities across northeast Missouri.

Clients have done everything from sweeping up sawdust, to serving up sandwiches, but Learning Opportunities provides more than just a job.

"To me, well I mean, I can speak from experience, I wouldn't be where I'm at now. I mean because they stuck with me, even whenever it got tough, you know they showed the compassion, the caring you know and I couldn't thank them enough," said Jerry Strahl, a Sodexo employee.

It allows people like Allen and Strahl to achieve their dreams too.

"Just being a normal person, just having a normal job, from you know eight to five, or eight to four and going home and having a big paycheck that's basically my dream job," said Allen.

Allen hopes to continue working for Hartzell Hardwoods as a full-time employee. Until then, heâ??s happy to help in any way he can.

For more information about the work Learning Opportunities/Quality Works does, click