Dot Kret found her career path at an early age. She saw how others treated her high school friend who had muscular dystrophy, who told her, “Once you’re in a wheelchair, you become invisible.” That resonated with her.
“I had major problems with that,” says Dot, president and CEO of DK Advocates, Inc. “My goal is for people to not be invisible, for people to have a voice, to have people do what they want to do and succeed in their lives.”
Dot turned her passion into a successful business with offices in both Phoenix and Tucson. DKA provides job training and life skills for people who face obstacles to employment. “We help people become employable and employed,” she explains. “Towards that goal, we work with folks with all types of barriers to employment – physical disabilities, foster kids, kids who have been part of the juvenile court system, low income, homeless, people with criminal backgrounds, disabled veterans, behavioral health issues – all kinds of folks who just need a hand, and we try to provide that.”
More than half of DKA’s 400 clients each year are women and the company takes special care to address their concerns. Their training programs have flexible schedules to accommodate mothers who, for example, need to take their children to school. They also tailor job placements to help women succeed, by finding employers near their homes who can work with their scheduling needs. A working mother of two sons, now in their 20s, Dot strives to create an environment that’s welcoming for moms and kids.
Clients learn valuable skills on the job, while earning minimum wage through DKA’s various divisions. These include PakMail (packing and shipping services), Food FUNdamentals and Thought for Food (food service, nutrition and meal planning) and Archive Advantage (document imaging and data transformation – think converting your wedding video or slides to digital files). Through the company’s pro bono work, clients get a sense of what it means to give back to the community. DKA pays trainees and donates their time to projects like meal preparation for the Ronald McDonald House and scanning tribute items for the January 8th Memorial Foundation, where Dot serves as president of the board of directors.
“All of our training programs are very supportive and nurturing, to help people get over those issues that are standing in the way of them getting jobs,” says Dot. In addition to job skills, that may also include emotional issues and lack of self-confidence.
“We had a woman who scored a two on our 100-point computer assessment when she first came in.” A few weeks into her computer skills training class and working with Archive Advantage, she was asked to explain to a guest visiting the facility what she had learned. She brightened up as she described what she had accomplished. “She was like a whole new person,” says Dot. “We help people have hope again.”