Businesses are being honored for employing people with disabilities, a practice that Orangeburg County Disabilities and Special Needs Board officials say enriches their lives and gives them a chance to be their best.

The Greater Orangeburg Area Mayors’ Committee on Employment for People with Disabilities held its awards ceremony on Aug. 5 at the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s Orangeburg office.

Among those recognized at the ceremony were Zeus Industrial Products Inc., 2021 Large Employer of the Year, and South Carolina Avionics Services, 2021 Small Employer of the Year. Special recognition was also given to Ervin Felder, who was awarded 2020 Employee of the Year.

Felder is employed at Food Lion in Orangeburg, where he enjoys bagging groceries and gathering buggies. He is also employed in housekeeping at two Orangeburg County sites. The 50-year-old has worked in local grocery stores for more than 20 years.

Felder said he is well pleased with his award.

Dr. Eddie Glenn Bryant and Dr. Shirley Madison, co-chairs of the Greater Orangeburg Area Mayor’s Committee on Employment for People with Disabilities, talking about the importance of the awards program and the employment of the disabled.

“I think it’s good. I’m a bag boy. I get the buggies inside the store. I carry groceries out for the people and get the buggies out of the store. I do that, too,” he said.

Felder has not let his intellectual disability hold him back and is successfully holding down his jobs. The Denmark native is also housed in his own apartment with minimal supervision.

“I just wanted a chance, that’s all. I’m doing good. I’m doing things by myself. I don’t hang with a bad crowd,” said Felder, noting that individuals with disabilities can do whatever they want to do with determination and the right support.

Jimmy Boland, director of adult day programs at the Orangeburg DDSN, said, “He knows how to take care of himself to be at his best. I don’t think he’s met anybody he can’t make a friend of. He loves to cut up and joke. People love to talk with him.”

Boland continued, “With these awards and with him being at those locations so long, it’s a true blessing. You want to find that he’s got a place and a type of job that he can call his own. Ervin’s made his own way.”

Orangeburg DDSN Executive Director Vonda Steward said working at the office has been an “absolute honor and pleasure,” noting the clients are all special in their own ways.

“They’ve given more to us than we give to them. They’ve taught us about humanity, love and compassion. Ervin is just an absolute wonderful person who has done so well,” Steward said.

Orangeburg DDSN honors employers of disabled people, workers

The executive director continued, “He presented some serious challenges when he first came, but Ervin has done well. He has done well with his training. With all of our clients that we serve, we have to do an assessment, develop a plan, implement that plan and monitor it.

“Ervin just keeps getting better every year. He has worked on the lawn crew here, on the janitorial crew, in the work shop and then he got his own job in the community.”

Janson Finkbeiner is co-owner of South Carolina Avionics Service, which services, repairs and refurbishes light aircraft mechanically and electronically.

“We currently have on employee, David Ivers, who has been employed with us for three years and has actually relocated to Sumter (where the business has since expanded). David is a very talented technician and has quickly become a very skilled aircraft technician,” Finkbeiner said.

He said the company puts an emphasis on employing people with disabilities for a reason.

“We believe that anybody who loves aviation, has a desire to learn, has a strong work ethic and is willing to learn has a home at SCAS regardless of their background, training and/or disabilities.

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“As long as they can perform the work and have a willingness to excel in their career, we are excited to provide a working environment that they can thrive in,” Finkbeiner said.

Jennifer McQuesten, vice president of corporate communications for Zeus, said the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s Orangeburg office has developed a wonderful partnership with the company, which has been headquartered in Orangeburg for 30 years.

“Through transition fairs and bounce-back programs, we’ve been able to identify work opportunities for job seekers with disabilities. From cardboard recycling for our Gaston and Orangeburg facilities to building shipping pallets … vocational rehab has had a huge impact on our business both locally and worldwide,” McQuesten said.

Also in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony was Freddie Boan, area supervisor for the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department’s Orangeburg Office; training center manager John Bates; Orangeburg Mayor Pro Tem Liz Zimmerman Keitt and Dr. Eddie Glenn Bryant and Dr. Shirley Madison, who serve as co-chairpersons of the committee.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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