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Showing posts from 2017

Q&A Discussion Group for Ticket to Work!

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Have questions about Ticket to Work?

Join our group orientation and Q & A session every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month in our Richmond office location. Please call our office at (804) 278-9151 and provide your name and phone number to reserve a seat as seating is limited! No cost and no obligation.


Congratulations on the Helping Hands Award, Katherine Edwards!

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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 live…

Situational Assessments Lead to Lasting Success!

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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 …

Welcome to Our Newest Team Members

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We would like to welcome our newest members of The Choice Group team!
Zachary Sisisky - Behavorial Management Manager
Travis Horn - Vocational Counselor, Hampton Roads

Now Offering Services to Spanish Speaking Clients!

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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.




Joey Found Independence through his Skilled Trade Career

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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 s…

Working for a Federal Contractor

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

Our Employment Network (EN) status gives Ticket to Work holders a great opportunity to take advantage of our supported employment services and benefits counseling. Our recent partnership with Getting Hired gives Ticket holders and clients access to current and up-to-date job postings for organizations nationwide, including many Fortune 500 companies, ready to hire job seekers with disabilities!


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 Sectio…

Build Confidence Working with a Vocational Counselor

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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 he…

Sensory Friendly Screening @ The Byrd Theatre, presented by Autism Society

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Saturday, September 23rd! Join The Byrd Theatre and the Autism Society for the Sensory-Friendly Screening of Cars 3!

Success Story!

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Kat has been working with her client for the last two months.  Her client knew that her vocational goal was to be a full-time dishwasher, so when they started working together, her clear direction led them to find a position that was perfect!  Having previous work experience, she found a great fit as a full-time dishwasher for a corporate dining service.  During the interview process Kat helped her client on how to answer interview questions appropriately, interpreting verbal instruction, and after her client was hired for the job, negotiated her start date and the times she would be working because of transportation issues.  Kat worked with the employer to negotiate a special schedule to accommodate transportation needs.  In less than a month, Kat’s client was already training others! Her fantastic sense of humor and award winning smile has made it easy to get along well with her other co-workers.  Kat continues to check in with her client and her supervisor and is very proud that h…

VRA Special Projects nominates REACHCycles for Special Donation

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The VRA Special Projects Committee solicited nominations for this quarter for projects in the state of Virginia that highlight the values of VRA that are in need of support and funds for their endeavors.  Upon review of the nominations, the VRA board voted to support REACHcycles for the second Special Projects recipient in 2017.
The VRA Special Projects Committee honored REACHcycles with our $500.00 donation during their celebratory event at ARCpark in Richmond on August 6, 2017.  At this event, REACHcycles presented 22 specially adapted donated three-wheeler cycles (AmTrykes) to area children with disabilities who had been pre-selected by REACHcycles based on desire and need. 
The Choice Group representatives, Ericka Neville nominated REACHcycles for this special donation, while Chris Lavach presented the check as part of the celebratory event on August 6, 2017.
What a touching event it was to see all of the children receive and ride their adapted cycle. -  It is great to know that VRA …

Success Story!

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Angela Volkening has a client that works in one of the many major grocery store chains in the Richmond area.When she first started working with him, she said there was a lot of anxiety surrounding interviews and applying for positions in person.However, he knew he wanted to work for a company that was supportive of people with disabilities.Originally, he had applied for an order-filling position, however, the store needed help elsewhere and they hired him to be a bagger.This presented a unique challenge for Angela and her client because he only has the use of one of his arms.Figuring out how to best set up the bagging station for his needs and how to maneuver the bags were things Angela and her client worked on together when he started working in June of 2016.Once he saw that he was able to do his job as well as the other baggers he grew in confidence and gets positive feedback from customers.Now, over a year later, he’s doing great and enjoys his job!

Welcome Newest Team Members!

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We'd like to welcome Robin and Rachel, two great additions to the team!


Myths About Americans with Disabilities Act

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Myths about the Americans with Disabilities ActJuly 25, 2017 John Duvall Fuse Workforce Management

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law, prohibiting employers, schools, and public places from discriminating against anyone on the basis of their disabilities, and requiring them to provide reasonable accommodations. However, even after nearly 30 years with this law in place, many employers still don’t understand their obligations, and often carry misconceptions about hiring workers with disabilities. Let’s take a look at some common myths about hiring employees with disabilities, and whether there’s any truth to them. Myth #1: It’s expensive to accommodate employees with disabilitiesNot true. In fact, most employers (at least 73 percent) will pay nothing at all to accommodate employees with disabilities in the workplace. Of the workplaces that do need additional accommodations put in place, over half of them will incur expenses that total under $500. For mo…

James Conner Enjoys Work at the Lumber Yard!

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James works at North Fork Lumber in Goshen, Virginia. I started working with James in February of 2017 when he started working at North Fork Lumber.
Penni from the Department of Aging and Rehabilitation (DARS) in Fishersville was already in contact with the office manager, Paula, and the owner, Will, to set up the original interview to see if stacking lumber was the right fit for James.  After a functional interview, Will offered James a full-time position as Lumber Stacker.
The number one focus for the entire lumber yard operation is safety.  The employer wanted to know that James could focus on his job and be safe while doing it.  James is a fast learner and could identify the length and types of wood way before I could! James has a lot of energy and the ability to move quickly.  He is also motivated to earn his own paycheck and does not mind overtime at all! 


James’ job duties include stacking lumber that comes from the “green chain” by length and type, bundling the lumber when it get…

Jason's Success Story

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Jason and I have worked together for a little over 4 years now. He was assigned to me under situational assessments and did so well at an Office Assistant assessment he was hired on the spot at Home Sweet Home Care in Smithfield. He has been working there for about 4 years. The owner, Shirley McGee, and staff at Home Sweet Home Care are incredibly supportive of Jason and always look out for him. The owner and staff say they love Jason and that he is a joy to have in their office.
Jason uses a wheelchair and has left side paralysis so he was initially referred for situational assessments to see what his employment strengths and likes were.  After learning about Jason’s preferences, we did one prior assessment trying silverware rolling, but due to his hand strength and left side paralysis, it was not a good fit. Next, we tried the Office Assistant assessment at Home Sweet Home Care. He did terrifically and the owner was impressed with Jason and with supported employment and offered him a…

Welcome to the Team!

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The Choice Group welcomes our newest counselors to the team!


Welcome, newest Counselors!

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We'd like to welcome our two newest Choice Group team members!

Claire Adams - Hampton Roads Area
Evan Jang - Richmond Area

Counselor Feature: Nancy Kells McNamara

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Nancy McNamara is the Lead Counselor in the Hampton Roads area and has been working at The Choice Group for over four years now.  While she says that she has had many memorable experiences during her time here, one in particular stands out in the last year.  
“It was it was a great pleasure to be able to assist a client with multiple felonies who was just released from prison to get back into the workforce doing cabinetmaking which he learned while in prison by working with DARS to promote On the Job Training (OJT) for the client with an employer. I was able to get the employer to give the client a chance,  and he is now successfully in Long-Term Employment Support Services (LTESS). He recently attended a job fair via DARS for people coming out of the prison system and shared his success story and how OJT and working with DARS and The Choice Group helped him re-enter society and the workforce successfully.”
She loves seeing her clients grow and succeed and seeing the positive diffe…

Welcoming New Vocational Counselors to RVA!

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We'd like to welcome our newest members of The Choice Group Richmond team! 
Alexandra Thomas Vocational Counselor
Cliff Carter Vocational Counselor
Lakeshia Ward Vocational Counselor
Mary Chris Warner Vocational Technician
Nolan Speichinger Vocational Counselor

Consumer Protection Bureau: Your Money, Your Goals!

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The Consumer Protection Bureau has developed an amazing resource called Your Money, Your Goals. The aim of this program is to help individuals gain financial independence through strategy, planning and goal setting.  Feeling out of control of your own situation is something that many individuals who receive Social Security experience.  At The Choice Group, we offer benefits counseling so you know exactly how your benefits will be affected by employment.  We set goals to maintain them while supplementing your income through employment or figure out how to reach complete financial independence - it depends on you!  These tools work in quite the same way, letting you choose your path to independence and the freedom of choice!

These tools and more can be found at consumerfinance.gov!

Always Learning to Better Serve Clients!

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Our staff is always learning and training for better ways to serve our clients!  This was just last week when a group of us came together from all of our locations across Virginia for a two-day training on Ticket To Work services.

From left to right:
Katelynn Denny – TTW Admin Assistant
Jonathan May – TTW/WISA Manager
Laura May – Voc Counselor/WISA
Erin Lloyd – Regional Manager/WISA
Milton Johnson – WISA
Buddy Blatz – Lead Counselor/WISA
Greg Bell – TTW Senior Consultant
David Leon – DARS Ticket to Work Coordinator
Shane Rocheleau – WISA
Scott Fraley – Quality Assurance/Vocational Evaluator/WISA
Rachel Hoffman – Lead Counselor/TTW Lead
Chandra Goodman – WISA

Not pictured:
Erica Johnson – Regional Manager/ WISA
Angela Volkening – Vocational Counselor/TTW Lead
Michelle Champion – WISA Admin Assistant
Sherman Gifford – TTW/WISA Director

WISE Webinar Events

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We are always trying to stay on the leading edge of incentive programs, offerings and educational training like the WISE (Work Incentives Seminar Events) webinars to better serve our community with disabilities.  Listen to The Choice Group's Vice President, Sherman Gifford, along with other presenters on how to take advantage of these opportunities! 

WISE webinars are online events held for people who are age 18 through 64 and receive Social Security Disability benefits. You'll learn about the Ticket to Work Program and available Work Incentives through accessible learning opportunities. WISE webinars are generally held on the fourth Wednesday of each month
Learn more about these events, participation, and registration here: http://bit.ly/2lGDMXa

Counselor Feature: Rachel McGregor

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Rachel is currently The Choice Group’s liaison for Project SEARCH in the Hampton Roads area and is excellent at what she does! Even as a long-standing counselor, her passion for it is still very apparent, which is why we chose her as a Featured Counselor!  Congrats, Rachel, your hard work is worth celebrating!
How long have you been with The Choice Group?     About 4 years.
In which areas of Virginia do you work?
    Hampton Roads and Southside.
Do you do any special cases works?
    Project SEARCH Norfolk, Lead Transition Counselor, and I also work with clients who are deaf and hard of hearing.
What was your most memorable experience with TCG?
        I was working with a client who had a hard time navigating his work setting on his own.  He would rely on my verbal prompts to move from aisle to aisle.  Using an app on his iPod, I was able to map out his entire route of the store to complete his tasks.  I recorded my voice along with pictures and written labels to help him navigate t…

Congrats Project SEARCH Graduates!

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It's graduation season! We are so proud of this year's Project SEARCH graduates all across Virginia!

Graduation Schedule: Project SEARCH Chesapeake: June 2nd, 11:30am to 1pm, Lifestyle Center at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center Project SEARCH Hampton: June 6th 12pm to 2pm, Sentara Careplex Conference Rooms B and C Project SEARCH Norfolk: June 6th 6:3pm to 7:30pm, Sentara Norfolk General Brickhouse Auditorium Project SEARCH Williamsburg: June 15th 2pm to 4pm, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, Robert L. Graves Conference Room

A Brother and Sister Team Find Independence with Supported Employment

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Crystal and Steven MacArthur are the typical brother and sister: they enjoy watching football with their mom, attending their church, and spending time with their family, dog, and friends.  Despite some sibling eye-rolling, they look out for each other.  They also enjoy working.  When looking for part-time positions, they wanted an employer where they could stay long-term.  Crystal became a dishwasher for a staffing company at a Virginia university.  She initially worked in the Annex, a smaller cafeteria off campus.  She hand-washed dishes and eventually learned to use the automatic machine.  Because Crystal has a visual impairment, Crystal’s co-workers always looked out for her, letting her know when the floor was wet or if there were crates that might get in her way.  She became part of the team, discussing sports games and weekend plans while keeping up with the breakfast and lunch rush.  When the Annex closed and Crystal faced moving to the larger cafeteria on campus, she was ini…

TCG Vocational Counselors Can Help Recent College Gradutates Find Employment

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Jonathan Ross has been a client of The Choice Group for a few years now. One of the first things I noticed was that Jonathan does a great job of setting goals.  He sets goals that are specific, measurable, and achievable. When I first met him, he was attending college and was looking for a part-time summer position. Jonathan found employment at two local grocery stores for two summers as a Bagger/Courtesy Clerk.

At first, Jonathan required intervention in learning certain tasks and building professional relationships. However, after effective support, he gained the ability to work independently. Jonathan is extremely punctual, and never missed a day of work. He built relationships with his co-workers and showed significant improvement with his interpersonal skills.

Once Jonathan graduated from College he began to work part time at a Digital Solutions company. The Choice Group provided job site training to ensure he was successful in his new role and able to attain a full-time positio…

James' Personal Perseverance

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James Mothershead is an intelligent guy.  He is an accomplished academic with both a bachelors and masters degree in Business Administration.  Not only an academic, James put his schooling to good use becoming a successful executive in the financial industry.  He worked in banking for almost 20 years.

When I met James he was looking for a new job.  He had just been diagnosed with Spinal Bifida, a condition that can make certain physical movements extremely painful.  Along with the Spinal Bifida, he was also dealing with clinical anxiety and depression.

Despite these challenges, James was determined to find employment. Early in the job search, he was having a difficult time locating an employer, everyone kept telling him he was over-qualified. In addition, his Spinal Bifida required him to find a position where he could accomplish his work sitting down or with very minimal movement.  He kept at it and found a job working as a cashier clerk at Walmart in Fredericksburg. In his role, Ja…

Continuing Success Means Continuous Support

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In the first few minutes of meeting Jeff, you quickly learn that he is a hardworking man. Over a year ago, he contacted his DBVI (Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired) Counselor and requested help in finding a job. He had recently left his job as a Manufacturer at a local business in Charlottesville and wanted a job as a Dishwasher. That’s when he met Kate Gariepy, a Vocational Counselor with The Choice Group. Together, Jeff and Kate completed several assessments in his community before beginning to look for a job.

After several months of applying for jobs, Jeff was hired at a new local restaurant as their daytime Dishwasher. Jeff quickly learned his job and became friends with the owner and several of his coworkers. He was highlighted on the restaurant’s Facebook page that eventually caught the attention of a local news station. Jeff says that since his appearance on Newsplex CBS19, many of his friends contacted him to comment on the news story. Jeff continued to work at the…

Katrina Found Independence Through Employment!

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Katrina Blow has been working as a Hostess at Applebee’s in Franklin, Virginia for almost two years now.  When first starting the job, she learned that hostessing required a fair amount of organizational skills like learning the layout of the tables and keeping track of the seating chart rotations.  That’s where Nancy came in, the Lead Vocational Counselor from The Choice Group in Hampton Roads. Together, they made small index card maps for each of the table rotations, especially important during the shift change of the servers.  After only a short time using the new system, Katrina had memorized the information and no longer need to use the cards.

After a year and a half of employment, Katrina’s General Manager asked her to train a new employee. She was excited about the opportunity. It motivated her to work diligently and pay specific attention to detail.  Katrina now trains the majority of new hosts and hostesses hired at Applebee’s. Her managers say she is one of their best emplo…

Tranisha Mitchell's Success with Project SEARCH

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Tranisha Mitchell started working as an Operating Room Attendant at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in August 2016.  She works in the Surgical Prep and recovery unit, in a unique position that was created exclusively for her due to her outstanding work as an intern through Project SEARCH.

When she initially began Project SEARCH she had moved several times.  With every move came the difficulty of figuring out how to navigate a new local bus route.  Tranisha, an independent go-getter, wasn’t going to let navigating a bus schedule get in her way.  She adapted quickly to her new surroundings and figured out how to effectively take public transportation to the hospital.

Tranisha is a top notch employee at the Hospital because she is compassionate and great with people.  She grew up helping her family members with their medical needs, so a transition to serving her community working at the Hospital felt natural.  Tranisha is not only compassionate and great with people; she is also extrem…

On-Site Job Training Chameleons!

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As Vocational Counselors with The Choice Group, we provide on-the-job training and coaching services to assist individuals in meeting their employment goals in a variety of settings.  We often provide hands-on training, and we do our best to blend into each environment, so we wear the same Personal Protective Equipment, or PPE, as the clients we work with to be safe on the job site. Pictured above, Rosemary wears the required uniform for working with her client at a university bakery, complete with chef’s hat, chef’s jacket, and slip resistant shoes.  Becky wears safety equipment required for working with her client at a lumber yard, complete with hard hat, ear plugs, and steel-toed boots.  We enjoy working with our clients to help them be successful in meeting their goals!