Monday, November 13, 2017

Congratulations on the Helping Hands Award, Katherine Edwards!

Vocational Counselor Katherine Edwards of Hampton Roads recently received the Charles A. Wornom Helping Hands Award at the Hampton Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities Annual Luncheon!

Not only does she deserve this honor, but the way she received it was extra special as well…

Several weeks ago one of Katherine’s clients, a veteran with a disability that had been working with Katherine for over a year, got in touch with Ericka Neville, her supervisor, to divulge her plan of nominating her to receive the award from the Hampton Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities.  She had drafted a nomination letter to the committee and asked Ericka for review. 

She personally empowers me to be as independent as possible even though she continually monitors my needs to understand when I need assistance before I even ask for help.” Her client’s nomination letter reads.  "Her contribution to the needs of our community has been nothing less than amazing….. [and] enhances the lives of so many people in our community through employment training, job coaching community support and independence and thus empowering many to reach their goals and independence. I know, I’m one!” 

Inspired, Ericka wrote a letter of support of her own and conspiring together, came up with a plan to keep it a complete surprise. As a ruse, Ericka asked Katherine to help her “work a booth” for a Veterans Resource Fair the afternoon of the Luncheon.  When the day came, Ericka dropped Katherine's client at the Convention Center 15 minutes early to the start of the luncheon to reserve seats for all three of them. While Ericka walked Katherine into the building, she became very surprised that a luncheon was being held instead of a Veterans Fair and after seeing her client sitting at the table, was filled in about her nomination for the award! There were several nominees for this award and neither Ericka nor Katherine’s client knew who the winner was going to be. 

"They announced the first runner-up, then the second runner-up, and then we found out Katherine won!  We were just excited that she was nominated and being recognized for her hard work . . .  but then she actually won!” said Ericka when recalling that moment. 

In her nomination letter, Ericka writes, "Through The Choice Group, Katherine began providing community support services to female veterans about two years ago. Female veterans often have unique needs and Katherine has done an outstanding job in understanding those needs. She has pushed when needing to push, counseled during moments of crisis, and often times just listened when no one else had taken the time to do so." 

Both Katherine’s client and Ericka herald her dedication to going above and beyond at every turn in their nomination letters, and The Choice Group is so proud to have such a dedicated and caring Vocational Counselor in Katherine.

Congratulations on your achievement! 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Situational Assessments Lead to Lasting Success!

Rebecca Myers began working with Elizabeth Hunter, or Lizzie in December of 2016.  After determining vocational goals based on Lizzie’s interests and skills, Ms. Myers arranged several situational assessments to determine what environment Lizzie would thrive in the most. Situational assessments are a great tool for vocational counselors, it not only helps the client find a preferential work situation but helps vocational counselors determine what specific types of supports are necessary for the job! Lizzie completed assessments at a grocery store and a fast food chain where she focused on cleaning as well as additional assessments at two large retail chains where merchandise was the main focus. Although she demonstrated she was proficient at both, Lizzie decided she liked food service the best. 

In March 2017, Lizzie gained employment at Domino’s in Broadway, Virginia! 
Being a people-person, she enjoys her work environment where she can interact with co-workers and customers.  She is detail oriented, which is important for her job as a dishwasher.  Her very first task when arriving to a shift is to wash the dishes and stack them to dry. When that’s complete, she moves to the front of the store where she fills and stocks to-go salad dressings, folds boxes, and completes various tasks wherever the restaurant needs.  Lizzie is a fast learner and picked up the dish routine very quickly.  She learned how to use the computer to clock in and out independently and she continues to work on increasing her speed when folding boxes.

Rebecca continues to check-in with Lizzie each shift. She works with Lizzie on multi-tasking; interacting with customers and co-workers while still remaining focused on her duties at hand.  When Lizzie first started her dishwashing routine, she and Rebecca worked together on stacking the dishes properly to air dry. 

“Lizzie has been awesome to work with,” says Rebecca, “Even when she is having a tough morning, as soon as she walked into Domino’s her attitude changes and she is ready to work!” In addition to training with Lizzie on her job duties, Rebecca has helped her to secure reliable transportation for her shifts.  Rebecca says the staff at Domino’s in Broadway have all been amazingly supportive. The operating manager, Melissa, tells Rebecca that Liz is a very hard worker and that she enjoys having her in the store! 

Lizzie’s favorite part of the job is doing dishes and prepping salad dressings but thinks she’s best at dishes. Outside of work, she enjoys other activities like volunteering at the animal shelter and shopping at Wal-Mart and Gabe’s.  When asked about work Lizzie says she loves the staff at Domino’s but loves her job the most “because I get paid!” 

Well said, Lizzie. Keep up the good work!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Welcome to Our Newest Team Members

We would like to welcome our newest members of The Choice Group team!

Zachary Sisisky - Behavorial Management Manager

Travis Horn - Vocational Counselor, Hampton Roads

Monday, October 9, 2017

Now Offering Services to Spanish Speaking Clients!

We would love to welcome our newest Ticket to Work Program Specialist, Nury Mojica!  Not only will she be bringing her expertise to The Choice Group to assist our Ticket to Work clients, but she will be offering her services to the Spanish Speaking community!  Look forward to our website en EspaƱol.

Nury Mojica - Ticket to Work Specialist

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Joey Found Independence through his Skilled Trade Career

Joseph “Joey” Hughes is a young man who recently graduated from the Manufacturing Program at the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, Virginia.  The staff at WWRC set Joey up with a job interview at an innovative company that constructs metal office furniture in Verona.  Throughout the years, this company has also specialized in making aluminum telephone booths, step ladders, and racks and they currently research, develop and produce heat exchangers.  After his interview, he got the job and set forth on his new career. Anxious at first, with some encouragement, guidance, and support Joey has come a long way! 

To Joey, his new job was as exciting as it was demanding; his duties include assembling, disassembling, and testing the heat exchangers which is skilled work.  One needs to have a keen eye for detail and the ability to use power tools on a daily basis.  David, his counselor at The Choice Group worked with him for a full month at the job.  Working through steps of what to do when he encountered a problem, helping him understand his duties and the employer's expectations, the importance of patience in learning new tasks.  Joey stands tall and takes pride in what he does at Provides.  He currently works full-time with benefits and great pay!

“I love it here,” Joey said about his job. "I want to work for [my company] until I am 60 or 70 years old!”

Joey’s family lives over an hour away, so he decided to move to Verona where he could be closer to work.  This was a gigantic step for him.  With some assistance from David, he was able to find a one bedroom apartment without a cosigner and all utilities included that is less than ten minutes from work.  In addition to training on the job, David also worked with Joey in Community Support Services where he assisted him in opening a bank account (checking and savings), budgeting, learning how to track his bills and pay his rent, finding a church of his choice in the area, teaching him about proper nutrition, reading labels, and paying attention to expiration dates.  David also helped him learn to cook simple meals and says they have done steak, pasta with meat sauce, and ground beef tacos so far!

 Joey owns a car and drives to work daily.  He said that the work is hard but rewarding at the same time and that all his coworkers have all been fantastic.  They have provided a nurturing and supportive environment for Joey and have given full access to the job coaching staff to be able to assist Joey in any way.  Joey is currently working independently and no longer requires follow along services.  His dedication, commitment, and charisma will take him far at work and in life.  Hats off to this young man’s success!

Working for a Federal Contractor

The Choice Group is an Employment Network (EN) under the Ticket to Work Program (TTW)!

Social Security's Ticket to Work (Ticket) program recently released the new resource, Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act: Working for a Federal Contractor. Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that federal contractors and subcontractors – companies doing business with the federal government – take affirmative action to recruit, hire, employ, promote, and retain qualified people with disabilities.

This new resource answers frequently asked questions about Section 503, including: 

  • What is Section 503?
  • What does self-identification mean?
  • What does Section 503 mean to Social Security disability beneficiaries?
  • Learn more about Section 503 and how it may help you on the path to financial independence.

About Ticket to Work

Social Security’s Ticket to Work program supports career development for people ages 18 through 64 who receive Social Security disability benefits (SSI or SSDI) and want to work. The Ticket program is free and voluntary. It helps people with disabilities move toward financial independence and connects them with the services and support they need to succeed in the workforce.

Find more resources at

Friday, September 8, 2017

Build Confidence Working with a Vocational Counselor

   When Erin Hickman started working with The Choice Group back in early 2014, she was prepared to start working.  Already knowing what type of job she wanted, Erin came in with a typed list of places where she would potentially like to work.  One of her choices was at her local grocery store, where she has now worked for over 3 years!

    At first, Erin had misgivings about working the cash register.  She didn’t feel confident handling other people’s money.  But after working with her job coach and training on register operations and procedures, it quickly became one of her strong suits.  She received recognition from management for remembering a change in procedure with checks - not an easy task - as well as an Excellent Customer Service award after helping an upset customer.  Erin now talks to customers with ease and when the grocery store upgraded to a new check out system, with Ian’s help, she was one of the first employees to learn it!

    Erin loves playing arcade games in her free time, especially Basketball Shoot Out, and enjoys going to the movies.