Occupational Services, Inc., better known to the local community as OSI, has not only been a place of employment, but has become a home and a family to me over the last 38 years. Upon attaining a Master’s degree in Counseling from a local university in 1979, my goal and aim in life was to enter the “helping services” field and to help those with challenges and those who needed a “helping hand” to reach their own life goals. You see, I had experienced my own set of challenges having had polio at a young age. I had worn braces, endured surgery, and found myself challenged with “keeping up” with other kids. I soon found ways to compensate for these challenges, and was fortunate to have wonderful parents, exceptional teachers, and friends who encouraged me and taught me that there were no limits to what one could attain, despite what some termed a “disability.” Actually, despite having been an Easter Seals poster child and attending Easter Seal summer camp, I really never saw myself as having a disability.

So, OSI just seemed the right “fit” for me. OSI is an agency providing employment services daily to more than 125 individuals with Intellectual, Physical, and Mental Health challenges. Each person who attends OSI has goals, interests, desires and capabilities. Through providing work opportunities both in-facility as well as in the community, individuals are assisted in attaining their goals, being productive members of the community, and feeling that sense of satisfaction that we all desire. At OSI, our mission is to empower individuals with disabilities to achieve their optimal level of success. That may mean packaging and labeling in our Redwood Street facility, or working on a cleaning crew in the community. It may mean working on a recycling crew in our document destruction operation, or operating a skid washer, washing plastic skids for local companies at our Industrial Drive facility.

Since 1957, OSI has operated as a nonprofit corporation that has been granted tax-exempt public charity status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service. Although OSI receives public funding for much of the services provided, we rely on community support to grow and expand our services to reach more individuals, providing the opportunities afforded by employment. As a wife, mother, grandmother, and director of a human services agency, I can attest that no matter your role in life, it is a blessing to see others grow and succeed and I’m grateful to the community that supports our mission.

What does giving mean to you? Giving is a blessing for both you and the individual on the receiving end. My experience is that you receive back two-fold what you give.

What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back? Giving is not necessarily writing a large check. It can be giving of your time, sharing an organization’s mission with others, or just a word of encouragement at a crucial time for another individual in need. I would make a suggestion that you visit your favorite organization to see and feel first-hand the results of your giving. I have yet to give a tour of our program to any visitor who did not leave with a heartwarming smile. It can be truly life changing!

Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization. One of my favorite “giving” experiences has been helping a local organization serve Christmas meals to those less fortunate. We tend to take things such as food and clothing for granted until we are faced with others who struggle with these basic needs.

-Linda J. Mayo, Executive Director of OSI