Local nonprofit helps Kettering man build new life

Boundless helped Joe Mata find work, independence.

Most people grow up planning a future with perhaps a dream job that will pay them enough to support themselves and a family. But for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, the path to success is often difficult and takes many twists and turns.

Joe Mata was born in California and, decided to move to Ohio 10 years ago to live with his sister. He was 25 years old and needed help finding employment and a permanent place to live after arriving in Dayton.

Melissa Engle, manager of workforce and community services for Boundless, met Mata about five years ago, when he was referred to Monco Enterprises, a county agency that helped people to find employment. She said Mata started in the program by volunteering and learning skills to help him eventually be successful in a full-time job.

“I was curious about the program,” Mata said. “All I knew was I wanted to start a new life and get a new job.”

After about six months, Mata was offered his first job at the former Mendelsons in downtown Dayton.

“Joe started in a group employment program, and he did so well that he was hired full time,” Engle said.

Boundless, which was originally founded as Franklin County Residential Services in 1980, was awarded a contract in Dayton in early 2018 and shared space with the now closed Monco Enterprises. Boundless is a nonprofit organization that offers programs including behavioral health, residential and job placement services to individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities who need assistance building more independent lives.

For Mata, building that independence meant not only finding a job with a regular paycheck to help him cover bills like rent and utilities, but also one that utilized his skills and challenged him to learn and grow. After a few years at Mendelsons, Mata took a job at the Walmart store in Bellbrook and found an affordable apartment in Kettering.

“I had a couple of job offers,” Mata said. “But I decided on Walmart because my dad worked there years ago.”

After three years working for Walmart, Mata is earning a living through a job that not only pays him well, but also gives him a sense of purpose. He especially enjoys working with customers and loading products on shelves.

“I started out on first shift,” Mata said. “They showed me how to unload off the truck and I did it really fast and they were impressed.”

Mata’s Walmart supervisor asked him to move to second shift and he now handles returns and zoning, as well as truck unloading.

Boundless is a referral-based program that Engle said receives clients from several agencies in the state. The state first refers people who are interested in learning about employment opportunities, even those with little to no skills.

“Everybody comes in at different points in their lives,” Engle said. “We offer what we call ‘person centered programming.’ It’s focused on individual goals and our clients can become as independent as they would like to be.”

Clients get support from a team at Boundless, Montgomery County and their family support teams.

“Joe is the leader of his support team,” Engle said. “We work together to learn about his interests and abilities and find out what he needs to be successful.”

In Mata’s case, his lifelong dream was to become independent and live on his own. Now that he has accomplished this, his support team meets monthly to ensure Mata is still on track and doing well.

“It’s such a change for him,” Engle said. “From arriving in Ohio and living with his sister to getting full-time employment and finally his own apartment.

Funding for Boundless programming comes from a variety of sources, including the county, government, Medicaid, United Way and private donations.

“It’s been so cool watching Joe through all of this,” Engle said. “He sets such a wonderful example of how hard work can make a difference and it’s great seeing him working and supporting himself but also doing things he enjoys like kayaking and going to movies. We think he’s pretty inspiring.”

Mata himself said he was scared and nervous in the beginning to start the program but decided he wanted to learn how to achieve his goals and dreams. He is now not only successful at work, but also at living in his neighborhood, where he has become friends with several neighbors.

“Boundless has helped me so much and I am grateful,” Mata said. “I hope they will continue to help people like me to find jobs and homes in our community.”

For more information, log on to iamboundless.org

Contact this contributing writer at banspach@ymail.com.

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