When Olaya Orozco was two years old, she made the perfect potato man and her mother told her one day she will become an artist. Today, she is an artist in Publix Bakery and earns a paycheck making treats look as good as they taste.
The oldest of four children, Olaya is living with Autism and ADHD. Despite her disabilities, she is determined to accomplish her dreams – take an art class, save up enough money to buy an art tablet, and one day become a digital artist.
In the Coastal Empire community, 1 in 12 people under age 65 lives with a disability. Twice as many people with disabilities live in poverty compared to those without. People with disabilities are more likely to experience material hardships – food insecurity; inability to pay rent, mortgage, and utilities; lack of medical care – and are at greater risk of isolation and predation.
Partnering with nine local agencies, United Way of the Coastal Empire is committed to create employment opportunity that results in long-term success for all. This year, United Way invested more than $400K to increase access to quality special education programs, reduce barriers to employment and community engagement, and improve physical and emotional well-being.
Agencies receiving funding from United Way to help people with disabilities are Abilities Unlimited, Coastal Center for Developmental Services, Faith Equestrian Therapeutic Center, Kicklighter Resource Center, Living Independence for Everyone, Matthew Reardon Center for Autism, Reed House, Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision, and Savannah Speech and Hearing Center.
“We are very grateful for our agencies that help people with disabilities transition into the workforce,” said President and CEO of United Way of the Coastal Empire, Gregg Schroeder. “I could not be more proud of the dedicated men and women who do the work each day, one by one, improving lives.”
As for Olaya, she continues to impress those she meets with her humble ability to shine, her soft smile, and her ability to replicate beauty over and over again.