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Port Chester Business Looks Beyond Disabilities

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - Port Chester's Red Oak Transportation, one of Westchester's largest limousine companies, has a different philosophy than other Westchester transportation companies. According to Red Oak President Edward Stoppelmann, the difference stems from a personal emphasis on values.

"We're not your typical limo service," Stoppelmann said inside Red Oak's offices on the Boston Post Road in Port Chester. "We have a more traditional way of doing business."

Stoppelmann formed Red Oak with his brother Andrew in 2001, but his family has been in the transportation business for 75 years. But the emphasis on values goes beyond taking care of their customers. Rather, the company looks to impact the entire communities where they work.

In the fall of last year when Stoppelmann was asked if he wanted to partner with Ability Beyond Disability to create an official work assessment site for individuals with disabilites, he jumped at the opportunity.

"It's hard to instill your passion into the employees of your company," Stoppelmann said. "But the response from my employees was extremely positive and I think the program is a way of breaking down stereotypes and enriching the workplace."

Four years after suffering a stroke in 2007, 27-year-old Katrina Rittershofer of Yonkers decided she was ready to return to the working world. When her doctor referred her to Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCESS-VR) which contacted Ability Beyond Disability.

Thanks to the work from Ability Beyond Disability, Katrina spent a week in late November working at Red Oak as part of the assessment program where she performed administrative work like filing, mailing and bookkeeping.

"Everybody was really friendly and helpful and it was a really warm environment to work in," Katrina said.

Since her time at Red Oak, Katrina has inquired about numerous administrative openings and is optimistic and excited about her employment future.

"The difficulty in finding an assessment site is getting the business to adjust the workplace to each individual's needs," Shaileen Brighton-Ortiz, services Manager for Day Programs and Vocational Services for Ability Beyond Disability, said. "Ed was really open to working with us to create an environment specific to each individual."

Brighton-Ortiz added that since Katrina successfully completed here assessment in November she has received three more applications for assessments at Red Oak.

"Ability Beyond Disability's mission is to have the community see the ability in all people," Lisa Linsley of Ability Beyond Disability said. "It means a lot to us when people like Ed support our mission."

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