How you can help
If you are interested in job coaching or job placement assistance through Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley, call 937-461-4800. To find the GESMV location nearest you where you can donate items, go to www.gesmv.org, click on the “About Us” tab and then click on “Locations.” To make a financial donation, go to the website, and click on the “Give” tab.
At first glance, Joe Vadnais of Sugarcreek Twp. does not appear to suffer from any disabilities.
But the 50-year-old has struggled with physical setbacks for decades.
When Vadnais was 19 years old, he developed Type 1 diabetes, and other health issues followed. In 1992, he lost hearing in his right ear. About three years later, he lost vision in his right eye. A prosthetic eye has been in its place since the early 2000s.
In 2001, Vadnais underwent a kidney transplant after suffering from kidney failure. His kidney and pancreas were replaced. While his diabetes was cured, Vadnais has been in and out of the hospital over the years, as he is more susceptible to illness than the average person. At the beginning of December, he suffered a heart attack.
“I haven’t been real lucky in the health department,” Vadnais said.
In the midst of his health troubles in 2000, Vadnais quit his job at Lau Industries in the Dayton area, where he had worked as a welder and press operator. He thought he was never going to work again.
That all changed in late 2010, when Vadnais decided to turn his life around after a decade of unemployment.
He contacted a state agency, which connected him with Goodwill Easter Seals Miami Valley in Dayton. The organization, whose mission is to “empower people with disabilities and other needs to achieve independence and enhance their lives on a daily basis,” gave Vadnais assessments and vocational training.
In November 2012, he celebrated his one-year anniversary employed as a job coach for GESMV, using his own experiences to help others with special needs achieve success.
Vadnais usually works with people who are visually impaired, evaluating their job skills so that they can become independent and find employment. He said this job has been fulfilling and has helped him to become a more selfless person.
“I’m a million times over grateful that I have the job that I have and that I work for the company I work for,” he said. ” … It’s exactly what I need, to work with other people that have their own challenges. I have my own, so I have more empathy for them, more understanding.”
Vadnais, a recovering drug addict and alcoholic who hasn’t used for 24 years, said he continues to work through his challenges one step at a time.
“Whatever comes my way, I deal with,” he said. “Sometimes I deal with it better than others. … I think that if I show up, if I do what’s in front of me, then I can and I have overcome the obstacles that have been put in front of me.”
Kim Bramlage, marketing communications coordinator for GESMV, said working with a diverse population of people who have overcome challenges is rewarding for the organization.
“He’s a shining example of what we’re all about,” she said of Vadnais. “We’re just proud of the fact that we have employees like him that are now willing to help others.”