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Meet Brenda


Brenda Sheaffer never understood numbers, no matter how much her teachers and others tried to help. She was born with a severe learning disability. She says, “I can read almost anything and I can play the keyboard by ear. But I could never understand math.” As a result, her job prospects were limited.

When Brenda completed high school, her parents helped her look for a job. Brenda tried working at commercial jobs but “I was always let go because of my special needs.” She worked in food service, at a laundry and a nursing home. She didn’t stay in those jobs very long because, “I wasn’t fast enough.”

Then her mother learned of Melwood. Brenda applied and went into a job with the support she needed to be successful. She first worked as a custodian at the National Zoo, then transferred to another worksite. Brenda later applied for a job at one of Melwood’s newest worksites, a secure federal building in downtown Washington, DC, in 2000.  She has worked there ever since, saying, “At Melwood, I have an umbrella of support. I have a supervisor I can talk to if I need help. I do not have to hide my disability to keep my job.”

Brenda is proud of her accomplishments. “I work, and pay taxes. I live on my own and pay all the rent. I am very proud of myself.”

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