When Kara Kluver started working full-time at Epsilon in the spring of 2016, her main job was handling the many packages that were delivered to the Irving offices of the global marketing firm. Today, as “dockmaster” for Epsilon’s seven-story building, Kluver not only accepts and delivers and tracks the packages on an iPad, but also confirms the identities of vendors and contractors who enter the facility and restocks the company’s multiple business centers every day.
One recent afternoon found her on the building’s sixth floor, rolling a long, heavy cart full of office supplies into the business center used by Epsilon employees. The cart was brimming with the likes of new pencils, Sharpie pens, and paper clips. “These do not go here,” Kluver said authoritatively, inspecting supplies in the center that someone had misplaced. “Elisa, why are there two of these here?” she asked her mentor, Elisa Barsotta, Epsilon’s assistant facilities coordinator.
Restocking the business centers had once been Barsotta’s job, Kluver will explain later, “but I wanted to take more on.” Indeed, said Linda Waters, Epsilon’s director of facilities and corporate services and Kluver’s direct supervisor, Kluver is “always asking for something new.”
Kluver’s ambition is especially remarkable because she got her job at Epsilon through what’s now called the LaunchAbility Career Services program at My Possibilities, a pioneering, 10-year-old, Plano-based nonprofit that helps adults with an intellectual and/or developmental disability (IDD). LaunchAbility, a nonprofit that was founded in 1963 to focus on disability hiring, merged with My Possibilities in January. Both groups were aiming to leverage their respective strengths to serve more of the estimated 250,000 individuals in North Texas with an IDD.
My Possibilities does that at a new, 20-acre, $25 million “Campus For Higher Learning” off Mapleshade Lane. There, more than 400 adults with cognitive disabilities each week receive vocational training, higher education, and socialization opportunities. Activities at the campus range from swimming, cooking, and computer coding to the performing and visual arts and massage therapy.
As the so-called supported employment program for My Possibilities, LaunchAbility Career Services has arranged ongoing jobs for more than 185 adults with an IDD, including Kluver, at more than 125 companies in Dallas-Fort Worth. Workers are paid directly by their employers, My Possibilities Executive Director Michael Thomas explains, and work “indefinitely” at their jobs because they are “incredibly loyal … the perfect team member.” Adds Thomas: “We aim to change the way people engage hiring people with disabilities. Rather than identifying it as a charity or ‘the right thing to do,’ we hope that people will learn that hiring people with disabilities brings a lot of great things to the table.”
Back at Epsilon, a company that’s owned by Plano-based Alliance Data, Kluver continued on her rounds re-stocking the business centers before returning to her work station outside the loading dock on the first floor. After buzzing in a vendor, she paused to tell us that she’s a Dallas native who previously worked part-time at a Kohl’s in Flower Mound, where she lives now. She much prefers working full-time at Epsilon, she added. Waters, the facilities director, was happy to hear that. “It just clicked immediately,” Waters said of her job interview with Kluver two years ago. “We knew it would be a good fit.”