Jeannie Kimmel has found success at the end of a journey that started before the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world for many. She began this journey to find a job she felt was useful and would make her happy. During this time, she learned she was important and should feel she was “more than a number.”  Today she is working at the local Wal-Mart on the maintenance crew.

This past year, Jeannie worked at Wal-Mart during the pandemic. She worked her schedule without hesitation and became someone her employer could count on. Her job is important as the maintenance staff are responsible for keeping the store clean in order to provide a safe and healthy environment for customers and staff. Jeannie is proud of the work she is doing and her accomplishments over the past year. She enjoys the work she does and that is one of the main reasons she goes to work each day. Jeannie passes this positive attitude on to customers and staff by sharing smiles. It helps everyone have a great day. Jeannie’s SSA (Service and Support Administrator), Pat Hensley from the Ottawa County Board of DD (OCBDD) had this to share, “I have only have worked with Jean for the last six months. I found Jean to be a kind, caring and determined young woman who is eager to help where ever needed. Jean really enjoys working at Walmart and the people she works with.” 

To achieve her goal of finding a job that best fit her needs and strengths, Jeannie had help in this journey at her former job.  She found she had creative and artistic talents, excelled at cleaning services and had a knack for sewing. But, the opportunities in the areas she enjoyed were not always available and she could not see herself remaining in a position that she did not enjoy. In order to find a way through this phase in her life, she enlisted the help of Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services of Ottawa County. Jeannie attended weekly counseling sessions that helped her realize her personal importance and how to work through changes in her life. 

Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services provided a job coach who worked with her on skills to find her next job.  These services included resume building, filling out job applications on the computer, looking for jobs, and interview prep, including dressing for the interview. 

Wal-Mart was not where Jeannie had her first interview. She interviewed at a local store, but did not get the job. This did not discourage Jeannie, she was determined to find the job she liked and continued to apply for open positions. Jeannie applied for 3 different positions at Wal-Mart, before she was offered the maintenance position. Jeannie worked with her new employer to build a schedule that fit not only their needs, but hers too. She uses Ottawa County Transportation Agency (OCTA) for her transportation to and from work.  

Through her involvement with the OCBDD recreation staff (REC), Jeannie participates in the Ohio Self Determination Association (OSDA). This is an association for self-advocates who speak up not only for themselves, but help others find their voice. Pre-pandemic, Jeannie was a regular participant in the group. This group meets regionally in Tiffin and also at the State level. Jeannie has always been an active participant in SASSY, Ottawa County’s self-advocacy group. Jeannie came up with the idea for the SASSY logo, a turtle that signifies people need to get out of their shell and speak up. Jeannie was also a member of the self-advocacy group that made a presentation to the DODD compliance review for accreditation. 

Julia Sims, the OCBDD REC Coordinator had this to share about Jeannie, “Jeannie is truly an example of someone who has had a success story in all areas of her life.  She arrived in Ottawa County six years ago and everything seemed foreign to her. She gradually developed into the true meaning of being a self-advocate through her determination to succeed in every area of her life by becoming involved with self- advocacy efforts, Special Olympics and community employment. She played on all four sports teams that we offer and also took the training to become a Special Olympics Athlete Leader.  Jeannie’s resilience and positive attitude have helped her achieve the success she is enjoying today.” Jeannie participates in softball, basketball, bowling and track for OCBDD Special Olympics. 

As a self-advocate, Jeannie has advice for others who may be looking for a job:

  1. Get to work on time, don’t be late.
  2. Get your job done.
  3. Wear clean clothes to work.
  4. Take a shower before work.`
  5. Take your medication every day.
  6. Listen to your boss.
  7. Ask questions if you don’t understand what the boss is telling you.
  8. Eating better is important, be sure to eat before going to work to have the energy to finish the jobs each day.

Jeannie understands that everyone has a bad day now and then, even the bosses. She uses coping skills to help her get through the rough times. Her examples were to count to ten, walk away or ask for help when needed. Jeannie says she is learning more about herself and others each day. This adds to her positive mood and keeps her happy. And remember, that Jeannie finds smiles help everyone’s day. The next time you are in Wal-Mart, share your smile with others, Jeannie may be the person who smiles back at you.

Jeannie shared this poem she wrote many years ago and it is a reflection of her creative and artistic ability.  

The Journey Poem 

by Jeannie M. Kimmel


On the calm seas of life

We all have special ships to navigate

Each with them on the same ocean


On the rough seas of life

Strong seas may batter our sails

The unpredictable rains make it hard to see

All of these ships endure the storms


On the confused seas of life

The storms cast us into unchartered waters

Where glimpses of land offer us help

All of these ships refuge


On the hopeful shore of life

Fellow captains give us solace

Prepare for our journey

Back with them all on that ocean