Strategic Benefits and Easterseals: Meaningful Work Makes Better Mental Health

Strategic Benefits and Easterseals: Meaningful Work Makes Better Mental Health

“You can’t help me. Nobody else has helped me.”

Those were the words from a young veteran struggling to find his place in the world. His mental health was struggling, he was dealing with addiction, and he felt there was no solution.

There are many people like him with similar struggles. Maybe it’s a disability that prevents them from finding the right kind of work. Perhaps it’s poverty that prevents them from getting out of their circumstances. The effects on mental health from unemployment are devastating.

Strategic Benefits knows the importance of mental health and support systems since they provide employee benefit packages to businesses and nonprofits throughout Cincinnati. When asked for an organization supporting mental health and veterans, the team chose Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati Easterseals began in 1919 when Edgar Allen, an Ohio businessman, saw the lack of services available for his son after an accident. The name came from the stamp-like “seals” used to raise money for the organization in the 1930s, showing a now-iconic lily flower.

Since then, the organization has spread across the country and is now a national organization with independent affiliates.

Because each affiliate is locally run and financed, Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati can focus on what is needed most in our community. While all Easterseals organizations are dedicated to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities, the Cincinnati affiliate also focuses on veterans and those who are economically disadvantaged. Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati has an impressive network of partners across the region that helps them tailor their services to the individual and get them connected to the right support.

More Than a Paycheck

Employment opportunities play a big part in an individual’s mental health.

“We’re all about connecting people to work,” says Danielle Gentry-Barth, vice president of development and marketing at Easterseals. “Work is more than just a paycheck. It’s your purpose. It’s your meaning. It’s your connections and friends.”

Easterseals connects individuals to the right opportunity for their situation. That may be full-time employment or part-time work. It might mean a job that is less demanding socially or has flexible hours. Each placement is carefully considered to provide the best fit for both the employee and the employer.

“We really want to understand the person, whether it be a veteran transitioning to civilian life or a 25-year-old with autism,” Gentry-Barth says. “We want to connect them to the right opportunity.”

One way they provide work training and meaningful employment is at Easterseals headquarters, located in Walnut Hills. They offer transitional work opportunities, training potential employees for building medical testing kits. Workers range in age from 18 to 80, from veterans to seniors to young people getting their first job. The facility is where anyone can learn new skills and practice before moving on to new employment. Since the advent of COVID, the workers at Easterseals of Greater Cincinnati are making 350,000 testing kits a year that are shipped worldwide. 

“We actually provide more Pfizer testing kits than any other organization in the world,” Gentry-Barth says. 

The Right Support

There’s never been a more opportune time for Easterseals to help provide meaningful employment. Businesses need more people to work, and Easterseals is a pipeline to help train and support workers.

The services that Easterseals offers vary based on need. For some people, it may be simply helping them put a resume together and coaching for job interviews. For others, it might be guiding them to the right opportunity, working with an employer to provide accommodations that help new workers be successful. For veterans returning home from service, Easterseals can help them find jobs that takes advantage of their military skills while avoiding possible mental health triggers.

When an individual is placed in a new job position, Easterseals doesn’t call it a job well done. They offer both employee and employer support for an entire year to ensure that the placement is working. 

“We want to place and support,” Gentry-Barth says. “We are there to work with that employer, too.” 

Easterseals has placed over 500 people in employment in the Cincinnati area this past year, and their collective earnings are over $11 million.

“If you’re an employer, work with Easterseals,” Gentry-Barth says. “Get to know us. We serve over 7,000 people in this community each year. In this environment, everyone is searching for folks. We can help you.”

The success stories speak for themselves. 

Remember that veteran who didn’t think anyone could help him? He was connected with Easterseals and found the support he needed. He was placed with a peer mentor to support him. He’s now sober and making a better life for himself and his family (including a new baby).

“Easterseals helped to reshape and restructure my own personal struggle into the force that drives my success today,” he says.

Can you help connect workers to meaningful employment? Contact Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati at Jen Homer of Strategic Benefits can be contacted at 513-366-3782 or

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