In honor of Jewish Disability Awareness Month we will be sharing the stories of members of the Jewish community with disabilities all month. Last weekend Gabe Flam, a graduate of the Transitions to Work program, spoke at CJP's Chai in the Hub event to a crowd of 400 people about his experiences with the program and working with a disability.
Hello! My name is name Gabriel Flam and I am 27 years old. I grew up in Barrington, Rhode Island and now live in Cambridge. I am a graduate of the Threshold Program at Lesley University, which is a program for young adults who have a disability. There I learned about living independently and making a life for myself. I am also a graduate of the Transitions To Work program at Jewish Vocational Service, and was in the first cycle of participants back in 2011.
My mother, who works at JF&CS, saw a poster about the Transitions To Work program and thought it looked like it might be a good fit for me. She told me about it, and we filled out an application together. I had applied to jobs in the past, but didn’t have any luck getting any paid jobs. I had volunteered at Hebrew Senior Life in Roslindale as a busboy, and I really enjoyed it, and wanted a job there. I was accepted into Transitions To Work at NewBridge On the Charles in Dedham, and was happy about it. I was excited that the program would help me find a paid job.
Transitions To Work was a great program for me. I was an intern at Treats which is a little coffee and ice cream shop at NewBridge. In class, we learned customer service and practiced scenarios, learned culinary skills and interview skills. We updated our resumes and the Transitions staff served as references for job applications. They helped me apply for jobs, and through the program, I got a job at NewBridge at the Treats café. I help customers by making coffee, scooping ice cream, using the cash register and setting up the salad bar.
The program helped me learn more about what I am capable of doing if I put my mind to it. Working hard and being mentored by NewBridge staff during my internship helped me get employed at NewBridge. I have been a paid employee for almost three years and I work about 38 hours each week and I am even receiving benefits. It makes me feel good and I can’t believe that I’ve been there that long. I have built several relationships with the staff and residents and have gotten to know everyone there. I’ve even been a mentor for other Transitions To Work interns who come to NewBridge, and that makes me feel fantastic.
My goal going into the program was to gain financial independence. I have reached my goal. I was able to help plan my wedding to my beautiful wife Rebecca and I am able to pay my rent and bills, and I wasn’t able to do that before. I know that my family is proud of my success and that they see me continuing to build on it. I am able to support my marriage and continue to show my love in many different ways. It’s not always easy to pay all the bills, but I manage it anyway. I continue to get up and go to work every day just like everybody else. It’s not always easy to wake up early every morning but I tell myself that my boss is counting on me to be there.
I am proud to have a well-suited job and to get a paycheck. Without JVS’s Transitions To Work Program, I may not have had the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to get a job at a great place like NewBridge On the Charles. I continue to learn a lot and improve my customer service skills. I am doing something that I have always loved which is to be helpful to people.
Reach out for more information on Transitions to Work.