Tell Us Your Story

IARF celebrates the valuable contributions people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are making every day.
Our members all around Illinois help realize people's potential to build independent, happy, and fulfilling lives with the right services and supports.


Discovering Joshua's Potential

Joshua’s face lights up when you ask him about his job. After transitioning out of high school, Joshua and his parents worked with RGA’s Employment Services Program. In his first job, Joshua worked at McDonalds. He was happy there, but dreamed of working on an office environment with computers.

He shared that dream with the RGA staff and soon after he interviewed with Audra Hamernik whose company is working with RGA to find affordable housing for people with disabilities. “At first we thought he could help us scan documents into the computer and do some filing,” explains Audra, “but we very quickly learned that Joshua was capable of much more.” Audra began giving him more and more responsibility and increased his hours from two days a week to three.

“We see in Joshua a person with a real work ethic, an interest in his community and an open honesty about his disability.” Today, not only does Joshua manage all computer-related files and office administration, he attends property viewings with Audra and gives recommendations as to what a person with disabilities would like in a home. That’s what we call person-centered programming.


Great Skills Lead to New Role

Theresa A. has worked for several years through Trinity’s Sup¬ported Employment Program. At Trinity and at her job at Wal¬greens, she is known and admired for her strong work ethic and outstanding personal skills.

Now Theresa is embarking on a new challenge as an Energy Force Ambassador for ComEd. Trinity staff recommended her for the job because of her lively, kind and friend¬ly personality.

On Oct. 2, Theresa presented energy awareness information to a group of more than 20 people at The Branch in New Lenox. She will make at least 10 presentations in her first year as an ambassador.

A short biography of Theresa is on ComEd’s website at She is a member of Trinity’s Advisory Group, where her advocacy skills and valuable insight help Trinity to better serve persons with disabilities.

To inquire about having Theresa speak at an event or location, call Kevin at 815-462-3652.


Goldie's Gourmet Goodies

The Goldie B. Floberg Center has truly made a small dream into a big reality with successfully opening their first microbusiness. When it comes to increasing employment and satisfying cupcake consumers there is no doubt the job is being done well. Goldie’s Gourmet Goodies is a supported employment initiative that brings individuals with developmental disabilities and job coaches together to create meaningful and sustainable employment opportunities. The amazing team sells delicious gourmet outside-in cupcakes, snack mix shakers, chocolate candies and bite size cake spoons.

In February, Goldie’s Gourmet Goodies participated in a charity event benefiting the Arc of Winnebago, Boone and Ogle County. At the event an assortment of seven hundred-bite size chocolate spoons were provided and within forty minutes of the event beginning all of the spoons were gone! The customers were extremely impressed with the concept of GGG and were even more impressed with the quality of the product. “I would work anytime, I love making cupcakes,“ said Ann Marie, employee of Goldie’s Gourmet Goodies. It was evident by the remarks of the individuals at the event that Ann Marie held a key role in making the production a success.

The next big item to be introduced by the thriving microbusiness is Buttercream Candies. These delicious treats are made from the most favored fillings from GGG’s outside-in cupcakes and coated with a variety of chocolates. If you would like more information about Goldie’s Gourmet Goodies or would like to order some delicious treats, please visit our website at or contact Cori Delevan at 815-624-8431.


Hiring People with Disabilities Isn't Just the Right Thing to Do - It's Good for Business

You’ll never meet a person who works harder, is more dependable and motivated, or enjoys coming to work than a person with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Being employed affords them both personal and professional growth, the reward of a paycheck, a sense of accomplishment and establishes them as a contributing and productive member of the community.

Businesses are not hiring a person with IDD as an act of charity. They're doing it because the people they're hiring are good employees and they believe in workforce diversity.

One example of a forward thinking business is Mariano’s. When Mariano’s entered the Chicago market four years ago, they welcomed Clearbrook clients into their workforce. We have clients who work independently and clients who are assisted by a job coach. Responsibilities range from bagging, retrieving carts and working in the bakery, hot foods and deli sections.

“At Mariano’s, our team members are qualified individuals reflecting the diverse communities we serve. We provide a work environment that promotes and celebrates individual achievement and we honor the dignity and worth of each person we hire.“ said Jess Terry, Group Vice President, Chief Human Resource Officer of Roundy’s Inc.


Devin Woodworth at Phoenix Industries

At Phoenix Industries, a controlled manufacturing workplace of KCCDD, Devin Woodworth is a valuable member of his team. He not only operates the saws at this manufacturing facility, where he can cut 4000 pieces per day, but he also works the nail gun and staple gun, where he completes 240 pieces per day. His contributions help Phoenix Industries fill orders for Caterpillar and other businesses. Accuracy and precision, as well as efficiency, are vital aspects of Devin's work.

When asked what his favorite thing about the job is, Devin said, "Making money and doing whatever job I can do!" His supervisors are extremely impressed with his work ethic, and they could "go on and on about how great he is, as a person and a worker." Devin's contributions in his daily work are invaluable to Phoenix Industries.

KCCDD is a 501(c)3 organization serving adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities in Knox and Warren Counties. Today, KCCDD strives to aspire to provide services revolved around knowledge, creativity, caring, development, and dedication. For more information about KCCDD and Phoenix Industries, please visit


In My Words

My name is Sarah Armour and I am the Business Assistant at JJ's List, Search's newest social enterprise. I manage the Disability-Aware Business Directory. I communicate with businesses by phone and email. I manage the bookkeeping, coordinate the Disability-Awareness Trainings, and I organize the JJ's List - Pace suburban bus "Hop on the Bus to Independence" program for schools and organizations in six Chicagoland counties. I also am a dedicated mentor to volunteers and co-workers!

Oh. And I have a disability. I use support for processing information, learning and self- organizing. I sometimes use a job coach to help me do my job in the most productive way possible.

I began at JJ's List as a volunteer because I wanted to be involved with an organization that helps individuals with disabilities advocate for themselves and others. I next became an independent contractor because JJ Hanley saw I had the skills and work ethic JJ's List needed. That was the first time in my life that I felt like I had abilities that someone needed instead of me needing help.

Part of my job is talking about my disability and being a self-advocate for others and myself. I would love to say this is the easiest part of my job, but in some ways it is the hardest. It has almost been the most growing experience of my life. In school I was always a verbal self-advocate when it came to the services I needed. I thought that when I became an adult that my disability would go away. It didn't, and now I know that I will always need to self-advocate for the support I need. I think in order became a true self-advocate one must truly embrace their own disabilities. Getting to know all the Search staff members has made it easier to let my guard down and has made me think of my disabilities as assets rather than a challenge. This past week I presented to 30 human resources professionals at Wintrust corporate headquarters, along with my colleague Nicole Heimdal. We are working with Wintrust and North Shore Community Bank to help them do a better job of hiring people with disabilities.

I am honored to be part of the Search family. Not only does Search provide services to people with disabilities, but they are giving me the support to be best worker I can be. It means a lot to me that Search is walking the walk of employing people with disabilities. When I first met the Search staff I thought they were going to think, 'Why is she working here?' This is partly because I never thought of myself as a professional. But, when I interact with staff I feel like I am just one co-worker interacting with another co-worker and we are on equal footing.