Client Journeys: Gayla Echols


Gayla Echols was out of work for several years after being diagnosed with a kidney disease and also taking care of her mother until her passing. She became familiar with Bobby Dodd Institute when she was researching social security possibilities. She wasn’t sure how potential employers would react to her disability and gaps in work history—this discouraged her from applying to work for a long time.

Upon coming to BDI, Gayla reflected that “[BDI staff] offered me a lot because they didn’t look at me as being disabled. They gave me opportunities to do things that I had done a long time ago.”

Gayla felt her career was given a new life, and in turn, she was also opened up to the possibilities of a brighter future for herself. “BDI saw potential in me that made me confident in myself and made me feel that I was family.” BDI worked with Gayla to help foster her clerical work skills, which she says she loves doing. BDI job trainers also gave her hands-on training in the warehouse. She says, “Anything they asked me to do, I succeeded and I was good at it, and I was fast.”

Gayla’s perseverance paid off. She went from the mindset that she would never be able to find work again to landing a job at one of Clayton County Public School’s nutrition departments as a food server. She serves close to 700 students a day. The first thing Gayla remarks about her job is: “It keeps me on my feet so I’m active.” Her favorite thing about work is being able to help the kids. “I like working with the kids. They’re a lot of fun. A lot of them come to school and they have hardly eaten at all. Serving them and making sure they eat makes me happy and puts a smile on my face.”

 Gayla arrives an hour early to work every day. “I don’t like to be late,” she explains, “and I don’t like to miss a day of work unless I have to. I like to be cross-trained so I can help other employees when they get behind so we can all catch up.”

 Of her experience at BDI, Gayla says, “They made me realize that I didn’t have to listen to the people who told me I wouldn’t be able to work again; I don’t have to listen to what other people say. I just go out there and try for myself.”

Now Gayla feels she has earned independence. “I’m proud that I didn’t give up on myself and that I’m able to get back to work and do the things that I used to do. Where I was once at a stand-still, I now want to climb a little higher for myself and see opportunities grow for me.”

Ability One Georgia Enterprises United Way