Federal program helps job seekers

A man who could no longer find construction jobs and a woman who hadn’t worked since 2007 are just two area residents who have benefited from a new federal program aimed at disabled job seekers — thousands of whom live in the greater Burbank-Glendale region, officials say.

Called Ticket to Work, the program at the Verdugo Jobs Center targets disabled Social Security beneficiaries in Glendale, Burbank and La Cañada Flintridge, but it can assist job seekers throughout the Los Angeles area.

Program director Alana Theard said Ticket to Work is important locally because the 2010 Census showed that nearly 6,500 people in Glendale and Burbank qualify.

In Glendale and Burbank, 27,676 people reported significant disabilities, according to the Census, but they must receive Social Security benefits to be eligible for Ticket to Work.

Theard said the program has already had some success stories.

Juan Cardenas worked for years in construction, but when the economy tanked, so did his job opportunities.

He enrolled in a training program at the Verdugo Jobs Center to install smart meters. When he learned about Ticket to Work in May, when it was still in its infancy, he signed up for that program, too.

The program helped him prepare to work with the city of Glendale and provided him with job coaching once he landed the position.

“If I didn’t have the Ticket to Work program, I would be a little bit lost,” said the Sunland resident, who added that he receives Social Security benefits because he is bipolar and borderline schizophrenic. “They helped me a lot in looking for work and support.”

The contract with the city ended about three weeks ago, but smart meter representatives asked if Cardenas would be willing to work in another city.

“I’m just waiting for that magic call,” he said.

Sandra Lopez hadn’t worked since 2007, when she began suffering from the effects of the neuromuscular disorder called myasthenia gravis.

Earlier this year, she began feeling better and wanted to return to work.

Lopez, who lives in L.A., signed up for the program in September. After working on her interviewing skills and reformatting her resume, Ticket to Work representatives set her up with job leads.

“They gave me the strength to go back to work,” she said. “I thought I was too old or too sick, but they said if the doctor says I’m OK, I can do it.”

She quickly got three interviews, and then two job offers. Last month, Lopez started working at a World Market store, and she said Wednesday that she was just offered a position as a manager at a Boston Market restaurant.

Ticket to Work currently has 41 participants, Theard said.

For more information, call (818) 409-0476.

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