Monday, July 25, 2016

Rewarding, Fast Paced Career Opportunity as Vocational Counselor



Do you have an interest, education or experience in human services? We have needs in many localities in Virginia. Put your skills and passions to work helping individuals with disabilities and Veterans achieve independence and employment. This is not an office job. Exact hours will depend on your clients' needs. You must have a valid driver’s license, dependable transportation, ability to plan your day and then shift gears, if necessary, to accommodate last-minute developments.

Job Description:

Provide supported employment, life skills training, and related services to persons with disabilities across Virginia. At least a Bachelor degree in a related field and related experience is required. Signing skills are a plus. This position requires a self-starter with computer and time management skills, who can work a flexible schedule. Good driving record and documentation of adequate insurance required. Compensation based on education, skills, and experience. Part Time and Full Time employment will be considered.

Specific job duties include:

* Assess client skills and abilities and requirements of specific employment situations for the purpose of job/client matching;

* Write Individual Service Plans (ISP), for each client outlining all goals, objectives and methods of evaluating goal attainment;

* Maintain required documentation on each client;

* Prepare written reports in the appropriate format for the referral source on a monthly, quarterly, or as-needed basis;

* Communicate with employers at local businesses to develop employment opportunities for specific clients with severe/most severe disabilities;

* Assist clients with application and interview process and coordinate arrangements for job placement;

* Train and counsel clients, in competitive employment, using systematic instructional techniques, compensatory strategies, job adaptation/modification and positive behavioral support techniques;

* Monitor and evaluate client work performance by collecting skill acquisition and production data and obtaining feedback from client, employer and coworkers, providing additional training or intervention as needed;

* Provide on-going assessment and follow-along services as needed and authorized;

* Provide Independent Living Skills & Life Skills Training, to clients in community-based, individual settings;

* Prepare written materials for clients, employers and counselors;

* Communicate with referral sources and other service providers on an on-going basis in a holistic approach to providing long-term service to persons with severe/most severe disabilities, including the need for (and use of) authorized hours in advance;

* Perform intake assessments;

* Provide job site consultations and backup support as needed;

* Advocate the employment of persons with severe/most severe disabilities with family members, service providers, and employers through one to one and group presentations;

* Participate in the process of achieving and maintaining CARF accreditation;

* Use a computer and telephone effectively;

* Communicate effectively with clients and staff verbally and in written form;

* Manage time effectively and have availability to work various hours of the day and night;

* Complete paperwork in a timely manner;

* Attend and actively engage in Employer Network meetings;

* Attend and actively engage in Supported Employment Provider Forums;

* Obtain and report relevant ongoing education;

* Participate in appropriate rehabilitation professional associations;

* Assist Director in training new staff;

* Perform other duties as assigned.

Full-time benefits:

401-K/Retirement Plan
Dental Insurance
Flexible Benefits
Flexible Work Schedule
Health Insurance
Holidays
Life Insurance
Sick Leave
Vacation
Short-term disability
Education and tuition reimbursement
Mileage reimbursement
Cell phone

EOE/VEVRAA Federal Contractor - All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or protected veteran status. Compensation: Compensation is based on qualifications, education, and experience.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Federal Funding Available to State Workforce Agencies

This article originally appeared on DisabilityScoop.com



Feds Offer Up Millions to Boost Disability Employment
By Shaun Heasley

Millions of dollars are up for grabs designed to help states improve services for people with disabilities seeking work.

The U.S. Department of Labor said it is making $15.6 million available to states to increase participation by those with disabilities in education and training programs to prepare them for employment.

The funding will be distributed as eight grants ranging from $1.5 to $2.5 million apiece, the agency said.

At least one project will be selected focusing on each of three demographic groups — individuals ages 14 and up with significant disabilities, young people with disabilities ages 14 to 24 and adults with disabilities ages 18 and over.

“People with disabilities have tremendous talents and ideas to contribute to our workplaces, our communities and our nation’s economy,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “The funding … will help to prepare these workers for good jobs and build strong ladders of opportunity to the middle-class.”

The grants are the latest in a series of federal funding opportunities in recent years aimed at growing employment among people with disabilities. Since 2010, the Labor Department said it has doled out more than $109 million to 43 state workforce agencies in 27 states in an effort to improve employment outcomes for this population.

State workforce agencies have until Aug. 1 to apply for the funding.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Sean Lent's Success Story



Sean Lent has worked at the Farm Fresh as a Courtesy Clerk in Smithfield for two years this August. He also sometimes helps in other departments when they are short-staffed. The managers love him, and Sean says it has helped him gain confidence and enabled him to purchase things like his cell phone. Sean has been a terrific client and one of the most hardworking clients I have known. Sean’s managers say he is dependable and does a great job. The managers have been incredibly supportive and have hired numerous clients over the years.

Nancy McNamara
Lead Vocational Counselor

Lead Vocational Counselor

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ethan's Success Story!



I like to refer to Ethan as the "Big Ben" of our local Wegman's. As a diehard Pittsburg Steelers fan, Ethan certainly knows to take this as a compliment. He is approaching the completion of his first year of employment as a Helping Hands Cart Attendant and has consistently demonstrated a strong work ethic and winning attitude on and off the "field".

 Ethan began job assessments with me in 2015 and I quickly noted both his eagerness to learn and willingness to work. It was not long after beginning job development that Ethan interviewed for and was offered his current position at Wegman's. Despite this being his very first job, Ethan showed a high level of initiative and resolve through his initial training and was soon working independently to collect carts, greet customers and assist with carry-out orders. The Helping Hands position is a tough one as employees work outdoors in the summer and winter months, but Ethan has not once complained about his work. He always has a smile on his face and a friendly word for each customer that he encounters.

Wegman's recently recognized Ethan as their Helping Hands Employee of the Month. I believe that his customers and co-workers would agree that he's a true "MVP".


John Callahan
Senior Vocational Counselor

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Companies Find Hiring Those With Autism Has Vast Benefits

According to a report cited in this article, more than a third of individuals with autism aren't working or continuing education into their early 20s due to a "services cliff," that basically leaves them high and dry after high school with no vocational training or life skills during that early adulthood transition.  This is something that The Choice Group has fought to provide through programs like Project SEARCH and other outlets like on-site training from our vocational counselors.  It seems that many companies are taking note of this growing void and taking steps to make job positions more accessible to the one in 68 children that are diagnosed with autism and grow up to be valuable employees.

Jordan Allison, 21, who has autism, works as a swatch and button specialist in the special order department at Hart Schaffner Marx in Des Plaines, Ill. (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS)



Companies Find Hiring Those On The Spectrum Has Vast Benefits
By: Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz

Doug Williams started noticing the signs when his son was six months old.

The absence of facial expressions. The drift of his gaze. Eventually, the agitation.

The official autism diagnosis came more than a year later, along with the whirlwind of figuring out schools and therapies. Not until his son, Hayden, reached high school and Williams glimpsed him as an adult did a fresh wake-up call hit.

What happens next?

Williams, CEO of suit-maker Hart Schaffner Marx, hopes to help answer that question for the many families worried about the same thing.

An estimated 50,000 individuals with autism graduate from high school every year, entering an adulthood without the supports they enjoyed in childhood.

More than a third find themselves not working or attending school in their early 20s, according to a report last year from the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute at Drexel University in Philadelphia. They are said to step off a “services cliff,” with half receiving no life skills or vocational training during that transitional young adult period.

Hart Schaffner Marx, a nearly 130-year-old clothier that counts President Barack Obama among its clients, is making room at its Des Plaines, Ill. factory for what Williams says is a vastly underutilized segment of the workforce, and hopes to set an example for other companies to follow.

“You’re not an island, you are part of a community,” Williams said. “You can choose to be a positive part.”

With the help of a company called Autism Workforce, the suit manufacturer has retooled everything from its employment applications to the signage on the factory floor to fit how people with autism live and think, rather than expecting them to adapt to the “neurotypical” world.”

All tax forms are now color-coded. All applications have small pictures to offer visual cues. Customized job descriptions detail whether a position requires a lot of fine motor skills or will take place in an environment where smells and sounds are strong, so applicants and their parents know whether it would be a proper fit.

Green plants were added to the office for a calming effect. Light bulbs were changed from harsh fluorescents to LEDs. Yellow lines painted on the ground help people navigate the factory floor.

A central feature is a new exercise room where employees with autism do a 30-minute workout before starting their shifts, performing sit-ups and bicep curls under the eye of an exercise coach. The room is designed in blue because it is a soothing color, and has an artificial-grass sensory wall to give users something to touch if that helps.

Research has shown vigorous exercise reduces maladaptive behaviors among kids with autism, such as hyperactivity and aggression, helping to keep them attentive and on task, said David Geslak, founder and president of Autism Workforce, a division of Chicago-based Exercise Connection.

Williams said the investment is a business imperative because autism is a part of the labor force that neither he nor his peers in the C-suite can ignore.

One in 68 children are diagnosed with autism, up from one in 150 a decade earlier likely because of changes to diagnostic criteria. Autism is a developmental disorder characterized by varied symptoms on a spectrum of severity. Some people have cognitive deficits, others have trouble communicating and others are high-functioning but struggle with social interaction.

Williams’ company is among several seeing the value of embracing autism in the workplace, especially for the repetitive and structured tasks that are less dependent on social graces than a detail-oriented and focused mind.

Ford this month kicked off a pilot program funded by the Autism Alliance of Michigan to give individuals with autism on-the-job training in product development, with the chance to be considered for a job.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreens, which became a leader on the issue thanks to a senior vice president with a son with autism, counts about 12 percent of its distribution center employees as having a self-disclosed disability, many on the autism spectrum.

Microsoft last year launched a small pilot program to hire at least 10 people with autism for full-time positions such as software engineer and data analyst. German software company SAP has made it a goal to have 1 percent of its workforce composed of people on the autism spectrum.

Northwestern University recently hired its first employee from Project SEARCH, a program that puts young adults with autism through three 10-week internships at the university. The employee will be performing clerical and support roles in its office of alumni relations and development.

Other organizations make autism central to their business model.

AutonomyWorks in Downers Grove, Ill. employs 20 associates, all of whom have autism, to perform back-office digital advertising tasks for corporate clients, said David Friedman, founder and CEO.

Friedman, a former president of marketing at Sears Holdings, said he used to run a digital agency and “there was not enough pizza and beer in the world” to keep the neurotypical college graduates he employed engaged while performing similar mundane tasks.

But for people with autism, the job, which starts at minimum wage, lights a path to a future, Friedman said. Turnover is less than 10 percent.

He has seen the impact on his 21-year-old son, who has autism and was so well-supported in high school that his son kept looking back on those glory days once they were over. Since starting work part-time at AutonomyWorks, he has been asking for more hours and pay and taking keyboarding classes at College of DuPage.

“It’s changed his view of his life to be forward-looking instead of backward-looking,” Friedman said.

There is heightened awareness that people with autism have desirable talents, said Brenda Weitzberg, executive director of Aspiritech, a Highland Park, Ill.-based nonprofit that employs 35 people on the autism spectrum as software testers for corporate clients.

Her 37-year-old son has Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism, and works part-time at Aspirtech, which starts employees at $12.

But most of the budding corporate initiatives are small and often target only those with high-level skills, she said.

To address the scope and diversity of autism, “we need every single company to find work that can be done by individuals on the spectrum and accommodate some of the social quirkiness,” Weitzberg said.

At Hart Schaffner Marx, Williams has invested more than $500,000 over the past two years, including wages, to create a model for welcoming employees with autism so that other companies can emulate it.

It was important to get buy-in from his employees, who number close to 700, he said. During the company’s annual summer picnic, Williams asked people to raise their hands if they have a friend, family member or neighbor with autism. He said two-thirds did so.

“That was a game changer,” he said. “Everybody saw what a big deal it was. It wasn’t just a CEO sitting in a conference room saying this is important to me.”

The company now has three people with autism working there.

One is Marice Aiston, 24, whose newly created role as expediter is dedicated to getting made-to-measure suit orders into production quickly. And expedite she does.

Carrying a stack of custom orders and with a white flower clipped into her ponytail, Aiston walks briskly through the factory, arms swinging, zipping past rows of women working at sewing machines and cutting fabrics, to deliver the paperwork to the production team.

Back at her desk, she types with one hand while she holds the other up to block a light on her computer monitor. A Post-it note covers a flashing light on her desktop scanner. Some people with autism have sensory sensitivities, such as to light.

Nearby, 21-year-old Jordan Allison, a swatch specialist with the customer service team, pulls requests for fabric samples. He lines the blues, grays and blacks in a neat row, counting and crossing off the completed orders with a yellow highlighter, leaning so close that his nose nearly touches the page.

At both of their desks are binders with step-by-step instructions for their tasks, with visual prompts, in case they need a reminder. They also have headphones in case a fire alarm goes off.

The third person with autism working at Hart Schaffner Marx is Max Gulias, a 20-year-old independent contractor who shoots training videos.

He has created a video the company plans to use to train people in how to fold cardboard boxes, and is working on another that tells new autism hires what to expect.

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said after showing off his work.

Gulias’ mother, Barbara Norris Coates, said his self-confidence has grown, and he feels proud to be doing a job that helps other people with autism.

She had worried about Gulias’ post-high-school transition and feared that her son, a creative person, would be pigeonholed into a strictly vocational career.

The company is set to start hiring for a fourth position, a stock associate tasked with folding cardboard boxes. The position, created to improve shipping production, could be appropriate for someone who is nonverbal or lower-performing on the spectrum, Geslak said.

Autism Workforce, which has approval to hire 10 people with autism at Hart Schaffner Marx, plans to next hire in IT, accounting or manufacturing.

Williams said the initiative has created positive energy at the company. It also has improved productivity on the special orders team, thanks to Aiston’s expediting.

Both Aiston and Allison earn the state minimum wage of $8.25 an hour, an important part of the program, Williams said, because people with autism often are relegated to unpaid or token work. Pay can be a tricky line to walk for some families, though, because if they earn too much, they may lose some benefits.

Aiston and Allison were referred to Hart Schaffner Marx by Have Dreams, an Evanston, Ill.-based autism resource organization that serves more than 150 individuals a week.

Kris Johnsen, founder and executive director, said a large gap in adult autism services leaves many people struggling to adapt to the social climate of a workplace. The first wave of young adults who experienced strong autism supports as kids are showing that the traditional developmental disability resources available to them in adulthood don’t quite fit their needs, Johnsen said.

Despite the challenges, Have Dreams, which operates several job training programs that help place people with autism into jobs, has more employers lined up to hire than they have ready applicants.

Johnsen said that’s because once kids leave the school system — and they must at 22 — it is hard to find them. She is certain many are sitting in their parents’ basements, playing video games and filling out applications online that go nowhere, or result in awkward phone interviews.

A lack of education among managers about how to work with people with autism is among the greatest challenges to securing them in jobs, said Ashley Palomino, director of programs at Autism Workforce.

The team put 125 people at Hart Schaffner Marx through training to better understand what autism is. They learned that it takes many people with autism a while to process information, so when a question goes unanswered for a long time, better to wait it out than ask it again and start the processing all over again.

Autism Workforce in May also started a program that brings individuals with autism into Hart Schaffner Marx to have mock interviews with the human resources manager, who gives feedback so they can practice. Human resources is learning how to conduct interviews as well, rephrasing questions keeping in mind that people with autism often take the words very literally.

Ellen Shaw, vice president of customer service and Allison’s supervisor at Hart Schaffner Marx, said some employees were unsure at first whether to approach the new hires. But soon enough Allison would introduce himself to them.

Allison caught on quickly and has been easy to work with, she said. The times he has gotten frustrated, he has told her he needs a moment and walks away, she said.

Shaw said she has been most struck by how badly he wants to be treated like everyone else. When Allison, who works until midday, saw that most people didn’t leave until 3:30 p.m., he told Shaw he should stay until then too.

Allison’s father, Stephen Allison, a lawyer and entrepreneur, said having meaningful work is “a blessing” for his son. The family started a festival vendor business called College Corn, selling ears of corn at the city’s big summer festivals, in order to give Jordan and some of his friends paid work when no one else would, he said.

“Most employers don’t reach and accommodate,” he said. “They take the path of least resistance.”

To view the original article, DisabilityScoop.com.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Kristopher Morris Finds More Than Success!


Kristopher Morris has been working in Charlottesville at a well-known pharmacy & convenience store for almost 6 years!  Rosemary, a Choice Group vocational counselor, has been working with him since December of 2010 (when he got the job!) and notes a big difference between back then, and now.

When they first started working together, Kristopher had misgivings about joining the workforce.  Customer interaction gave him anxiety due to a hearing impairment.  He didn’t want to answer phones and definitely didn’t want to drive to work.  However, he told Rosemary that he was interested in photography so they both decided that a photo lab was a natural place to start.  Rosemary found a position open at the national drugstore chain in their photo lab, and it was close to Kristopher’s house so he didn’t have to drive!  She helped him apply and interview and he got the job that same month!

He began working running the photo lab and troubleshooting photo lab machine problems.  He eventually began answering phones and stocking, then assisting customers at the photo kiosk and running the front register!  He even earned the title of Head of Photo Specialist (until this position was removed from all stores).  Kristopher grew in confidence through working, earning Employee of the Month NUMEROUS times according to Rosemary, and earning the title of Top Suggestive Seller quite frequently as well!

With all of his savings, Kristopher was able to buy himself a black Jeep that is now his love. “This is special,” says Rosemary, “because when we first started he was too nervous to drive to work!”  She notes Kristopher’s compassionate, kind and helpful nature among his other great qualities. “If he knows someone is having a hard day, he’ll go out of his way to listen and help them feel better, even if he’s having a hard day himself."

Kristopher is currently in the process of writing his second novel, which we can all hope is full of his great sense of humor and in his spare time, hangs with his dog, a boxer named Ringo.  He loves his job and hopes to be a Store Lead, or even Store Manager one day!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

George Sanders found success through Project SEARCH


Many of The Choice Group’s clientele are young adults that are transitioning from high school into employment.  One of the great programs we work with is Project SEARCH.  It’s an internship program where recently graduated students and young adults gain real world job experience, where they might not have had any before.  Participants must apply and interview for the internship positions much like any other job or internship.  It helps them build resumes for future positions as well!  While it’s not guaranteed that each participant will receive a job where they interned, if a student displays a great aptitude for the job, a great work ethic or attitude, often times they will be hired after the internship period is over.

That was the case for George!  When George Sanders came to the Project SEARCH program, he already had experience in the stock room, so after applying for an internship at Sentara Heart Hospital, they put him to work managing the 3 different store rooms in the Cardiac Care Unit.  He had a physical aptitude for the job (his height definitely helped) and he was a joy to his coworkers as well!  According to Rachel, The Choice Group’s Project SEARCH Coordinator who worked with George, he’s just a big nice guy, with a great sense of humor.

“He is extremely social and everyone in the hospital knows him— which also might be because of his height! And he’s a die-hard Cowboys fan,” says Rachel.

During his internship, Rachel and George would work on practical job skills such as communication at the workplace, studying terms, and learning the items in the stock room. His other tasks include receiving stock from the loading dock, sorting the supplies onto pallets, delivering stock to the store rooms and organizing them onto shelves.  He also helps out in the heart catheter lab!

Rachel also helps her clients prepare for the application and interview process and has been working with George since September of 2014.  After getting the internship position in December of the same year, Rachel has worked with George throughout the internship period, lasting one year, as she does with all of her Project SEARCH clients.  The Sentara Cardiac Care Unit was so impressed with his skills that they created an official stock room position for him after his internship was complete, just to keep him on staff!  He’s been working there since December 2015.

George has always had high expectations for himself, according to Rachel.  “He told me that when he started making money, he was going to use this money to take care of his grandma, who has been his primary caretaker from a young age."

Rachel, now providing Follow Along services to monitor stability, goes by the hospital to talk to George and his manager once a month.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Chesapeake Program Provides Career Training for Student with Disabilities

We are so happy to partner with Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Virginia DARS, Virginia Department of Education, specifically Chesapeake public schools who are all working toward making Project SEARCH a success!  It is such a great opportunity for many talented and wonderful students in the area looking forward to bright careers ahead of them.  We already have so many success stories of students' accomplishments with Project SEARCH and we can't wait to facilitate even more!



Chesapeake program provides career training for students with disabilities
By Lisa Perkins and Julie Green

This year Chesapeake Public Schools entered into a collaborative relationship with Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, The Choice Group and the Virginia Department of Education to bring Project SEARCH to the school division.

Chesapeake Public Schools Project SEARCH is a school-to-work transition program that takes place entirely at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare.

The program fosters classroom instruction and hands-on training in three 10-week internships and allows for individuals with disabilities to explore various career opportunities.

Project SEARCH began in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where co-founder Erin Riehle was director of Emergency Management. Riehle saw the opportunity to teach students with disabilities how to perform some of the necessary tasks in the department. Since then, it has expanded to more than 225 sites across 40 states and four countries.

Chesapeake Public Schools implemented the program after it received a technical assistance grant in 2015. It is one of 15 Project SEARCH sites in Virginia.

The goal of the program is for its graduates to find employment within the community.

While at Chesapeake Regional, the interns successfully completed internship rotations in the following departments: Dietary Services; Emergency Department; Emergency Room Registration; Occupational Health; Observation; Health Information Management; Information Technology; Sterile Processing Department; Surgical Admitting Unit; Environmental Services Housekeeping; Environmental Services Waste Management; Gift Shop; Materials Management; Security Services; and Radiology.

Because of the success of the program and the quality work provided by the interns, Project SEARCH was expanded to Cedar Manor Assisted Living Center during January. Cedar Manor is a subsidiary of Chesapeake Regional Healthcare where interns work in similar rotations.

The 2015-16 inaugural class of interns represents five of the city’s seven high schools. The students created a culminating statement to capture their final year of school: “Project SEARCH is for young adults in their last year of high school where they learn new professional work skills, such as communication, leadership, and teamwork to become independent in their work futures.”

To date, seven of the 11 interns have gained competitive employment with the help of Project SEARCH classroom instructor Julie Greene, job coach Courtney Stukes, vocational counselor Matt Olson and a job developer from The Choice Group.


Chesapeake Regional Healthcare also provided department mentors for each of the interns during their rotations, and the students are grateful for the collaboration.

“I’ve learned how to better communicate, how to work as a team member, how to get around the hospital, and I’ve met many new people,” said Haron Williams, who enjoyed making and serving drinks during his time working at All the Perks, Chesapeake Regional’s cafĂ©.

Intern Sean Harrington was hired by Chesapeake Regional to work as a supply technician for materials management in the operating room stockroom.

“I make sure the staff members have the right supplies they need for successful surgeries in the operating room,” he said. “I enjoy healing others, and my main goal is to help patients get well.”

Interim President and CEO of Chesapeake Regional, Dr. Alton L. Stocks, is interested in continuing the program.

“It is our privilege to work with the students of Project SEARCH as they learn the skills necessary for future employment,” Stocks said. “Our team has witnessed the students’ commitment and dedication to the training on a daily basis. We are delighted to have one of those students join us as a new employee, and we look forward to a continued partnership with Chesapeake Public Schools.”

The interns graduated from Project SEARCH on June 2 at a celebration held at Chesapeake Regional Healthcare’s Lifestyle Center. The graduates were surrounded by family, friends, teachers and their mentors, who shared in their accomplishments.

Next year, the program will begin again with 11 new interns.

“School-to-work transition is an area of increasing focus for Chesapeake Public Schools,” said Craig Pinello, director of special education. “We are very pleased with the partnership at Chesapeake Regional and the work the entire Project SEARCH team has done to promote the independence and success of our interns.

“The program not only benefits our students, but our entire community.”

To view the original article on The Virginian-Pilot, click here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

How Michael & Son Changed My Life

From the Blog of Michael & Son, comes one of our client's stories about how she found success!



How Michael & Son Changed My Life
By Shadi Tahrawi

My name is Kimberly Martin and I work as a Customer Service Representative at Michael and Son Services. Never in a million years would I have thought I would be in this place right now. A place where I can help others and also help myself. At one point I could only imagine this, looking back over my life and hearing people say “Kim, you can’t work anymore” and doctors saying “your health is not good anymore”, as this was being told to me, my mind was saying “God, you got this and I can’t just stop living”.

For seven years my mind was so congested, because all I knew was how to get up and go to work. I didn’t know how to just sit and do nothing. As my mind wandered, I went into a deep depression. I would not leave the house unless I needed to go to the store or pay bills. Life for me was over. One day I was sitting on the side of the bed and it hit me, I can’t do this anymore, I had to make a change for myself. I had to do better for me and my family. As I was sitting, my mind was racing, I knew my life was about to change for the better. I knew God was about to open up doors, that I knew could be but always wondered how.

So I started with the Yellow Book. Being labeled as “disabled” for so long, I knew there had to be some kind of services out there to help people like me. At first, I thought it was near impossible, I was so afraid but I had to take a stand and push pass feeling sorry for myself and stop feeling like my life was over. I found this program called the Choice Group. I was able to get two really good job coaches that helped me find the right track. Then one day my job coach had come to my home, we talked and we worked on my resume and she told me about a company called Michael and Son Services. I was a little intimidated but very excited about this possible future. At that point, everything started to move very fast, after three days I received a call from Michael and Son Services offering me to come in for an interview. I started to burst in tears of excitement, I thought “God, this is my breakthrough!”

When I arrived for the interview I was staring at 2 flights of stairs that stood between me and my independence, I have asthma but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I was scared of the unknown that was to come, I was unsure that I could do this, I had no call center experience and had not worked in seven years.  I took a deep breath and started up the stairs, there was no turning back, and I knew I could do this. As the interview went on, I was offered the position that changed my life.

A few short weeks later, I started training, I was so nervous about starting my first job in seven years. A week into training my asthma got the best of me and I was unable to complete the training and was in the hospital for several days. Once I got out I knew that I had lost an opportunity to get my life back, I sat and cried about what I had lost. I then received a phone call from Michael and Son. They let me know that they saw something in me and wanted me to come back for the next training class. I was overjoyed with the second chance and the new beginning, I thanked God for what He had done for me.

Michael and Son is about second chances and family. I have received multiple Top Performer Awards and I now encourage each training class on how to be successful in our call center. I can truly say that Michael and Son saved my life from depression, and also from death. Looking at me, from now 10 years ago to who I am today, I can truly say I am blessed and will never take anything for granted. This smile on my face is not only from God but from Michael and Son giving me my life back!

Find the original blog post by clicking here.