Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Passion, Dedication, and Teamwork: Highlighting Buddy Blatz!

Since starting with The Choice Group, Buddy Blatz has developed himself as both a leader and advocate in his field of work. Buddy is a Lead Counselor in the Central Region of Virginia and provides WISA and TTW services throughout most of the state. Buddy’s coworkers define him as being supportive and always “keeps it interesting" in meetings. He has become well known throughout the state as a knowledgeable and passionate WISA services expert.

There is a common opinion among his colleagues who believe he is an inspiration in the work environment when it comes to being a resource and ally to those around him. Here are some of the things his colleagues had to say:

"Buddy Blatz is a phenomenal man. I have so much honor and respect for him. Never in my three years at the Choice Group have I been inspired by someone as I have Buddy.  I work in Richmond with the WISA Program and he is always available to answer any question, help me with reports, come to my aide when all else has failed and to do it with a smile on his face. My comment to him is, “Buddy, thank you for being MY Buddy.”

Michelle Champion
WISA Administrative Assistant
The Choice Group

"I always hear how knowledgeable he is on the topic and how he has a way of explaining it; making it easy to understand. He really breaks it down to a simple concept. He is also very passionate about WISA services and gets excited explaining all the benefits available.”

Tiffany R. Jenkins, M.S., CRC, CRP
Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services

"Dependable. Always able to answer the difficult benefits questions and explain situations in a way that our consumers are left with confidence."  

Nikki Mangold, MS
Pre Employment Transition Services Counselor
Department of Aging and Rehabilitation

Congratulations Buddy on all your success and achievements, you are appreciated!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Counselor Feature: Meet Cati Howard!

Cati has been with The Choice Group since February of this year, she serves the Southwest area of Virginia. As a vocational counselor, she loves that her job has given her the ability to make a positive difference in someone's life. Knowing that she has a hand in helping her clients accomplish their employment goals and gain self-confidence through the process is a huge job pay off for Cati. “Helping someone to gain and maintain employment is such a rewarding experience,” she says, and quoting one of her own clients adds, “I don’t dread coming to work.” 

Her most memorable experience to date is the first client she ever worked with. “He was able to secure work with a wonderful company and quickly made natural support systems among his coworkers,” she explains. The way his coworkers and peers showed their support for her client was a moving experience. “I was moved not only by the support shown to my client by his peers but also the thoughtfulness and patience of his management team.” 

Cati continues to do a stellar job at The Choice Group, and is a wonderful addition to our Diversity Committee as well!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

New Team Members!

We'd like to introduce some great individuals that just joined our team! 

Siera Ellis
Administrative Program Support Specialist

Chris McElfresh
Administrative Program Support Specialist

Dana O'Connell
Vocational Technician - Richmond

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Meet Chantile!

Chantile has been working at Elite Laundry since December 2016.  Before coming to Elite Laundry, she was a student in the Career Development Program at Norview High School.  After high school, Chantile participated as an intern in the Project SEARCH program, a national program that helps young adults with disabilities transition from school to work.  The program is a collaboration between Norfolk Public Schools, Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, The Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services and The Choice Group, an employment service organization.

Chantile comes in every Tuesday morning and goes through the hangers that have been returned by our customers. Each week there are hundreds of hangers that are sent out with tablecloths.  Many of our customers return these hangers to be reused.  This helps provide a job for Chantile and also keeps them out of the landfill.  These hangers need all of their tags removed as well as the tubes that are dirty or bent.She then takes the "good" hangers used by our linen folders.  Chantile's job can be tedious, but she always does it with a smile!  When asked what she loves best about her job, she said, "I love getting out of the house and coming to see everyone at work." She also says she likes her job and likes working with other people.  Elite Laundry thanks you for sending your hangers back in to be reused.  It provides Chantile a few hours of work each week where she can feel valued and needed.

Megan Stover and the Elite Laundry Team

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

For Brian, success is just a commute away!

Nolan Speichinger has been working with Brian Rogers since December of last year. After determining that applying for an AbilityOne job would be the best strategy for Brian at the recommendation of his DARS counselor, they applied for jobs through a government contracting agency located in Northern Virginia. The AbilityOne program "is among the largest sources of employment, on Federal contracts, for individuals who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States.” Soon, they found a great position for Brian at a government facility in Washington D.C.!

There were many new challenges that Brian had to face with his new job, one of them being transportation. His daily commute in and out of the city usually averages one and a half to two hours and involves getting on the bus to the Franconia/Springfield station, getting off at the metro station, and walking to his nightly shift on time. When he returns from work, the bus is no longer in service and has learned how to order himself an Uber back to his home from the station. Learning this route was a huge achievement for Brian.

Being a man of routine, this job allows Brian to know what to expect with a reliable list of tasks to perform. Brian has been tasked with cleaning the basement of a major government building in D.C. and reports to his supervisors before every shift to receive his “route sheet.” His route sheet helps him to check off that he has pulled trash, vacuumed and made sure each room is ready for the next day.

With the support he has received from his family, job coach, and supervisors, Brian has been able to go from needing total supports to doing most of it independently. He has become more confident in himself and knows that he can do this job without a job coach overseeing his tasks throughout the shift. A recent improvement on the job has been his ability to call his supervisors when any questions, concerns or issues arise since he works by himself. He also went from not knowing how to use the metro system to now commuting successfully five days a week. 

With only three weeks on the job, Brian has achieved a great deal and we wish him continuing success in the future!

Friday, April 6, 2018

Brittany found a great job match!

I began working with Brittany Heath in October 2017, just after she had been offered a position with Walmart on Southpoint Parkway in Fredericksburg, VA in the Maintenance Department. She had worked with another job coach previously and I began working with her once she got the job! Brittany likes to keep things neat and tidy and this position was a great fit for her. Brittany had a wonderful trainer who helped her learn her job duties and answered all of her questions. Brittany picked up her job duties quickly and was moved to follow along services a mere two months after starting her job.  The management staff at Walmart are all very pleased with Brittany’s performance and praise her every time I visit the site. She recently began assisting with the training of new maintenance staff coming on board and says often how much she really likes her job. She is currently working part-time hours, up to 24 hours per week, usually three 8-hour days.

Tricia Ann Hall
Vocational Counselor, Northern Virginia

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Experience and determination got Keaton the job he wanted!

During the Fall of 2014, Keaton Hanks was a volunteer with a new and emerging consulting group in the Pulaski area of southwestern Virginia. Around that time, Keaton began working with his job coach at The Choice Group through Community Support Services. His objective was to gain employment as the consulting group's part-time administrative assistant by working on his customer service and administrative assistance skills with his coach, Caitlin Igor. Together they worked on phone etiquette, data entry, and in-person customer interaction skills while he was volunteering at the consulting agency.

After several months of progress, Keaton was hired as the part-time administrative assistant at the consulting agency where he was volunteering! He and his job coach continued to work on reading and interpreting detailed instructions to complete data entry projects as well as advancing his already improved customer service skills.

From his workstation at the front entrance, Keaton greets customers of the agency and assists them with locating employees in the office. He is in charge of file maintenance, often organizing, checking, and shredding files as needed. Some of the data entry projects Keaton completes are updates to digital client files as well as entering payment information for them. While Keaton takes pride in all of his job duties, he says, “my favorite thing to do is run errands!” Keaton is in charge of collecting the office’s outgoing and incoming mail and speaking with local employers in the area. One reason Keaton likes working at his consulting agency is that “it’s a good Christian group.” Keaton is upbeat each day he is at work and says, “I’m happy to do whatever my bosses ask me to do during the day."

Keaton has been working with the agency for over 3 years now, has his own business card and has now earned the professional title of Specialist of First Impressions!

Keaton enjoys a wide range of interests and skills and keeps himself busy by volunteering with local nursing and rehabilitation facilities, writing local sports articles about Pulaski County High School Football and Basketball, which he posts on his personal blog, as well as packing food in backpacks for local children in the community.

Keaton and his grandmother, Faye | Source New River CC

Keaton recently became a Pastor's assistant at his church as well as co-authored a book about his life with his Grandmother entitled “Keaton’s Story: The Surprising Uniqueness of Autism.”