Woman with disability turns volunteer work into career opportunity

June 13, 2018 - 5:43 am

A young Kansas City woman who is living with a physical disability leads a fulfilling career with a local organization where she volunteered. 

Lea Klepees is a development and community relations specialist at The Whole Person in Kansas City. She gets around mostly in a wheelchair. 

"I was born with a disability called arthrogryposis multiplex congenita," Klepees said. "That's kind of a broad term for anyone born with joint contractions from moving enough in the womb."

Like others with disabilities, getting around can be a challenge. Klepees says public transportation is limited outside Kansas City and some areas are hard to get in and out of.

"Being around the Westport area, lots of buildings are not fully accessible yet," Klepees said. "Of course, they always offer to lift me up into the establishment, but then the restrooms aren't accessible."

For a long time Klepees looked for work while volunteering at The Whole Person. That also was difficult for her.

"I didn't have a lot of experience or confidence, especially because I was so self-conscious about having a disability," Klepees said. 

Eventually, Klepees was hired at The Whole Person. Now she helps others who face challenges like hers. The organization serves about 2,000 people per year.  

"We have a large deaf services program, we have a large low vision and blind program, employment services," said Terri Goddard, manager of community relations and development.

The Whole Person is holding a Community Rummage Sale beginning Thursday. They want to do more than raise money.

"We live in an area that a garage sale or a rummage sale can serve people in our community, and it can serve our consumers, and bring us a little cash at the same time," Goddard said.

The Whole Person Community Rummage Sale at MCC Spirit of Hope Church at 38th and Wyandotte runs Thursday from 8:30 to 4:00, Friday from 10:00 to 4:00 and Saturday from 10:00 to 2:00.

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