Making things work

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Laurel Brier, a rehabilitation counselor at state Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation Division, right, gets help from an interpreter, left, in finding out more about Eleanor Padasdao’s work Friday at Padasdao’s work station at Salty Wahine Gourmet Sea Salts in Hanapepe.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Eleanor Padasdao and Laura Cristobal Andersland of Salty Wahine Gourmet Sea Salts celebrate their honor of being named Outstanding Employee of the Year, and Outstanding Employer of the Year, respectively, by the state Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation Division Friday at the Salty Wahine factory/warehouse in Hanapepe, where Padasdao maintains her work station with Maile the shop dog.

HANAPEPE — Good news beyond the outstanding vocational habilitation employee and outstanding vocational rehabilitation employer of the year celebration, Friday at the factory/warehouse of Salty Wahine Gourmet Sea Salts in Hanapepe.

State Rep. Dee Morikawa, presenting an award on behalf of the state Legislature, said with the passage of the Income Disregard legislation during the last session, it offers more opportunities for everyone — employees and employers, alike.

“I believe this is a good fit for everyone,” said Laurel Brier, a rehabilitation counselor with the Vocational Rehabilitation & Services for the Blind. “Ely has artistic qualities, and this job at the Salty Wahine makes use of that quality as well as her other abilities.”

Padasdao passed her on-the-job training, and in August, was hired to the staff.

“A bonus in Padasdao’s favor was one of the Salty Wahine staff had some American Sign Language knowledge,” Brier said. “The staff found her work quality to be excellent, and an example for others. She is meticulous about her packing and wrapping. She drives herself to work, and is always on time. Her communication with her employer is via text or relay service, or uses the ‘boogie board’ to write notes while she is at work. Other workers will carry the products and supplies to her work station so she is able to work at a very competitive pace, and is able to use her artistic eye in her work. Ely has never enjoyed a job more, and has expressed appreciation for her present situation.”

But it was not always like that.

“She was born with stumps for legs,” Brier said. “But she has persistence, and a determination for independence in life. Through the use of prosthesis after reaching legal age, she learned to drive, and worked at a preschool with children for a number of years after completing her schooling.”

An immigrant from the Philippines, Padasdao was a student in the self-contained classroom for the deaf, and another handicap in addition to her stumps was the inability to read lips, and a hearing aid was not useful.

Following her work at the preschool, Padasdao, with the help of the PASS plan that was written by VR, was able to get a car with her earnings.

This started a period of non-contact between Padasdao and VR until she re-appeared seeking work. She was no longer qualified to work as a preschool teacher’s aide due to recent mandates that aides now require AA degrees and certification in early childhood education, and Ely decided she would try something new — a nail technician.

However, despite the aid offered by VR, it was apparent she would not be able to pass the State Board requirements, and Ely went off to find work at an upholstery company where there was a lot of cleaning involved that required standing and lifting.

With the help of VR, the employer adjusted her job to that of seamstress and production work, Ely getting enthusiastic about receiving sewing lessons and equipment that was modified for her prosthesis. They made other accommodations because of her good attitude and work ethic.

But storm clouds brewed and interpersonal conflicts at home and work resulted in her quitting the job, leading to homelessness.

VR continued to help with counseling and guidance, and help completing applications for housing assistance.

She was approved for HUD and currently has a stable living situation with County Housing, a job she enjoys with Salty Wahine, and a step towards independent living.

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