Posts

Showing posts from 2018

Chanell Shines At A Local Elementary School

Image
Vocational Counselor Rachel McGregor began working with Chanell Teasley in the Summer of 2017. Beginning in September of 2018, Rachel helped her find work at a local elementary school. "Chanell has always had an interest in food services as well as in childcare. We decided to look at a position within the schools where she could blend both interests” McGregor said. Chanell is very friendly and loves people. She uses her fun personality to interact with the students and also has great attention to detail and is able to learn tasks quickly. Chanell has grown with her independence and confidence as she has been working at the school. Her tasks include but are not limited to prepping the food, serving the students, cleaning the kitchen and washing the dishes as needed. Before finding the job at the local elementary school, Chanell worked on improving her stamina while participating in Project SEARCH. She was able to build up to be able to work for several hours on her feet. Chanell a…

Counselor Feature: Zee Truitt

Image
Zee has been working for The Choice Group serving the Hampton Roads area for one month and is fitting in perfectly. Zee enjoyed working with her first client because she was able to work with them on her own and was so grateful to get to work with them so quickly. She was able to work with her client one on one and found the experience extremely rewarding. Zee is so grateful to have been given the opportunity to work at The Choice Group and feels like she is truly fulfilling her purpose in life. Welcome to the family, Zee, we are so glad to have you on our team!

Claire Adams- Counselor Feature

Image
Claire Adams has been with The Choice Group for over a year now and works the South Hampton Roads area, mainly the Oceanfront and Norfolk.
Her most memorable experience with The Choice Group was the day that one of her most challenging clients transitioned from struggling to maintain jobs to “one of the most treasured employees who brings joy to the entire kitchen”. This client found a job, with the help of Claire, at Chick-fil-A where his manager raves about him and it has been one of her proudest and most memorable experiences. 
Claire says she has learned so much about the value of persistence and patience, the power of advocating for client needs, the importance of educating client co-workers and developing a strong relationship with client managers, and the impact of team work.
Claire loves getting to know her clients and watching them achieve their goals which she finds incredibly rewarding. She says that she loves people and that this job has opened the door for her to connect …

Client Success Story- William Dwight "Finding work at The Founders Inn"

Image
William was referred to The Choice Group by Vocational Counselor, Susan Bohache, with the Virginia Department of Aging and Rehabilitative Services in April 2016 and was paired with Job Coach Ali Dodd and they soon found a position available at a local IHop in Chesapeake in July of 2016 but had to resign upon his families relocation. He rejoined in hopes of finding another job in Virginia Beach after his family relocated in April of 2017. William has been working with his vocational counselor Heidi beginning again in August of 2017 when he restarted services through DARS and began working with The Choice Group again. Assessments were tried initially in a grocery store, bagging groceries, collecting carts and cleaning bathrooms as well as working as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. His job coach conducted research in hopes of finding William a position somewhere where he would feel most comfortable and thrive. A position at the Founders Inn, for a Steward, came available and William…

Counselor Feature: Rachel Brand

Image
Rachel Brand has been with The Choice Group for one year. Rachel serves the Peninsula of Hampton Roads in Williamsburg and Yorktown. She works closely with Project SEARCH at Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center (SWRMC).
One of Rachel’s most memorable experiences working with The Choice Group was being able to work with High School Pre-ETS clients this summer facilitating Work Based Learning Experiences. Her favorite aspect was getting to work at several farms and animal shelters. Many of her clients opened up and became much more comfortable being around animals and being outdoors. Rachel enjoyed this because she also loves being around animals and being outdoors. 
Rachel loves working with The Choice Group because “no one day is ever the same”. She feels blessed to have had so many diverse experiences in her first year being a part of the team.
We are thrilled to have Rachel with us and look forward to many more years with her!

Executive Assistant Feature: Meaghan Strauss

Image
Meaghan has been an executive assistant with The Choice Group for 4 years and serves the areas of Richmond, Hampton Roads, Central Virginia, Northern Virginia and the Southwest. "Meaghan is the Administrative- Receptionist- LTESS extraordinaire. She wears many hats and is always available to help troubleshoot an issue with her expertise”. 
In working the front desk she is the first face clients see when they enter The Choice Group Office. "I am personally incredible appreciative of not only her hard work but dedication to assisting all TCG staff any way she can.” Says her coworker Danielle.
Danielle recalls her most memorable times with Meaghan have been her continual ability to solve problems in the Admin world. She says that Meaghan is great with giving directions and is always available to lend a hand. Danielle’s favorite aspect of working with Meaghan is her ability to maintain a positive attitude even amongst all of the chaos. 
We are so pleased to have such a positive…

Success Through Hardship- Valerie's Story

Image
Heidi Chaney began working with Valerie in October of 2017. Valerie was referred to The Choice Group by The Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) to help her get back to work. Along with the help of her DARS counselor Kara Leavell and with the support of her family and friends she was ready to move forward.

Valerie had gone to school 30 years ago to learn office skills and had worked at the local shipyard ordering parts for ship repair but was laid off and had not worked in 15 years. Valerie had overcome many challenges in her life and career such as being paralyzed from the waist down since the age of 18 and was not going to let being laid off deter her from finding work again.

With the help of her job coach, Valerie decided that working as a front desk receptionist or as a greeter of some type would best fit her needs and desires. After taking a situational assessment at a local YMCA it was confirmed that Valerie’s desire to move forward in the job search with …

Counselor Feature: Danielle Counts

Image
Danielle has been with The Choice Group for 2 years and serves the Richmond area. She specializes in Community Support Services (CSS), Wounded Warrior and The Department of Juvenile Justice.

Her most memorable experience has been helping one of her clients participate in the Women in Action Veteran Beauty Pageant hosted at the Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center.

She loves working at The Choice Group because it helps her instill hope in individuals whom often don’t think they’re capable of reaching their goals.

Keep up the great work Danielle, we are lucky to have you!

Reblog: Doctor Training Program Speeds Autism Diagnosis from Disability Scoop

Image
Doctor Training Program Speeds Autism Diagnosis

Austin Taylor

Image
Vocational Counselor Rachel McGregor has been working with her client, Austin since June of 2016. Already a hard worker, Austin gained work experience as a high school student at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital where he impressed the managers and staff with his initiative and endurance. So when Rachel started working with him as a postgraduate, Austin had already gained an affinity for food service from his experience at Sentara. 
The biggest obstacle Austin faced when landing a job, was finding the right match. They decided to apply to many different types of jobs since his work experience was somewhat limited up to this point. Austin “is capable of so much and knew exactly what he wanted to do,” said Rachel about her experience working with him. “I think it can be hard for younger individuals to find employment in their area of interest because often times they don’t have the experience needed for those positions.” However, Austin was more prepared than most with experience f…

Devante Walker

Image
Devante Walker has been working with Rachel from The Choice Group since August of 2014. He participated in the Project SEARCH program, completing 3, 10-week internships at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he gained essential work experience and skills to obtain future employment. During his time with Project SEARCH, it was clear that Devante excelled in customer service. In learning this, Rachel and Devante began looking for jobs where he could use his customer services skills and interact with people, which he loves to do. 
People are drawn to Devante’s outgoing personality. He has a great memory and can recognize people after meeting them just once!  So when Devante got the job as a part of the security crew at The Funny Bone, it was a perfect fit! He works up front as the customers line up to come in for a show. He checks bags, IDs and stamps hands. Devante also monitors the showroom as comedians are on stage. He is so loved by all his coworkers and guests that come in, an…

Counselor Feature: Caitlin Igoe

Image
Caitlin has been a counselor with us at The Choice Group for four years this September serving New River Valley and Roanoke in the Southwest Region of Virginia.

Caitlin’s most memorable experience working for TCG was watching her first client transition from Community Support Services volunteering with a company to a paid employee who has been in the job for almost 4 years now.

She loves the diversity The Choice Group brings, the new people she meets and working with different employers in the area.

We are honored to have Caitlin as one of our counselors and look forward to many more years with her!

Counselor Feature: Ryan Page

Image
Ryan has been a vocational counselor with The Choice Group going on two years. He serves the southwest region of Virginia and specializes in Community Support Services (CSS) providing services on an individual basis that focuses on developing strategies that improve quality of everyday life such as grocery shopping, transportation, laundry, and budgeting.

Ryan’s most memorable experience with TCG was assisting a client through a trip to Bethany Beach, Delaware at an event titled “Operation Seas the Day” that was supported by the local community.

Ryan loves helping his clients achieve their goals every day through his work with The Choice Group and we are lucky to have him as a counselor!

Why Roger Walks

Image
I met Roger Brannon, retired Marine, in March 2018. On May 23, 2016, nine days after his 45 birthday, Roger was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).  Not the news he expected to be dealing with when planning life at 45 and beyond.  But it didn’t take this strong, brave Marine long to decide what he was going to do with his diagnosis. When the neurologist told Roger that he might have ALS, He researched ALS and was surprised by what he read. The first fact he found was that military veterans are twice as likely to get ALS. This hit home with him.

Roger shared with me that when he was in the Marine Corps he made it a point to stay out of the spotlight. He didn’t like to be in the spotlight. He would rather be working in the trenches alongside his fellow Marines. He always put the mission first and personal wellbeing second. But ALS has changed this. He wants to put himself and ALS in the spotlight. “Today, I want to get my story out there—I want ALS to be in the spotligh…

Counselor Feature: Erin Lloyd

Image
Erin has been a vocational counselor with The Choice Group for 5 years working out of the Southwest region of Virginia. Erin specializes in Ticket To Work (TTW) and Work Incentive Specialist Advocacy (WISA) clients helping those who receive disability benefits make informed decisions about employment and finding alternatives for ongoing supports. Erin loves helping people accomplish their goals and that is why she is a perfect fit here at The Choice Group.

Her most memorable experience was helping a client find their way back to a part-time job where they worked for several years before going into retirement. Erin enjoys working with clients at The Choice Group because it brings variety to the workplace every day.

Erin continues to be a great asset here at The Choice Group and we are lucky to have her on our team!

Counselor Feature: Brianna Leger

Image
Brianna has been a counselor with The Choice Group starting in June of this year serving the Southwest region of Virginia. Brianna works with clients to help them make informed decisions about options for ongoing supports and employment through the Work Incentive Specialist Advocacy service. 
Although Brianna is a new addition to our team, she has fit in great with our other counselors. She enjoyed her time at orientation with her coworkers and looks forward to her growth within the company. 
Brianna has 6 years of experience working in job coaching and loves that every day brings someone and something new. 
We are excited to have Brianna on board and look forward to seeing her help clients change their lives!

Kian & Niall

Image
After volunteering at the American Library in Paris and earning their Bachelor’s degree in IT, Kian and Niall had a clear idea of what type of job they wanted. When they relocated to Charlottesville, VA, they began searching for jobs within the IT or data entry field.  A year later, both Kian and Niall were hired at the bookstore on the University of Virginia campus to sort and package textbook orders for incoming students. They quickly adapted to their work environment and impressed their coworkers with their stellar work ethic. Four weeks later when their contract ended, Kian and Niall did not give up and continued to search for their dream job.  They were introduced to a manager at the University of Virginia, who saw their attention to detail and offered the men positions as Temporary Data Technicians through UVA Temps. Within several months, Kian and Niall redacted years of research data, far exceeding the expectations of their coworkers and supervisors. They quickly transitioned…

Will Zentmyer, Rockstar!

Image
This story will not contain the boring, overused words “amazing” or “awesome” to describe the magnanimous character that defines Will Zentmyer.  This young man was teamed up with an excellent support crew to explore the vocational world of Charlottesville, VA.  This was a very challenging case, and Will did not know what type of work he wanted to do.  There were several unknowns to this equation, but the one given was Will’s determination.  He was able to try several different jobs including warehouse, restaurant, garden nursery, and hotel work.  This went on for a while, and Will exhibited the greatest success working in a hotel as a housekeeping aide.

With this in mind, his Vocational Counselor visited almost every hotel in Charlottesville to advocate for Will’s extraordinary charisma and abilities.  Several hotels declined the opportunity for Will to work there, while others said they needed to think about it.  All of the hotels that needed to consider it decided not to move forwa…

Counselor Spotlight: Leah Burgess

Image
Leah Burgess has been serving the Hampton Roads area as a Vocational Counselor for The Choice Group coming up on two years. Her specialty is with Pre-Employment Transition Services and she also works closely with Virginia Autism Project, a non-profit whose focus is to educate lawmakers and the public on issues that impact individuals with autism. Her love of the job comes from making a difference in her community and watching her clients succeed. One of her favorite experiences so far working with The Choice Group is the Collaborations Conference, held annually in Norfolk. She says, “The Choice Group works hard, but plays harder!” Thanks for all of your hardworking and dedication Leah!

Mariam came to TCG when she wanted a change!

Image
Mariam was working a retail job for 5 years before she came to The Choice Group looking for a change. Having lots of experience in the retail space, she was skilled at sales and conversing with customers but wanted something different and challenging. With a fun, talkative, and outgoing personality, Mariam wanted a position where she could interact with a lot of different people and have interesting conversations. She began working with Alexandra, her vocational counselor, in October of 2017.
Together they found a position for food demonstrations at Advantage Solutions. Having a personal interest in cooking at home, this was a job that intrigued her. In her position as an Event Specialist, she is able to combine her retail experience with her love of interacting with customers. 
Initially, she was shy drawing people to her demo station, but with her extended and studied knowledge of the products she’s offering, her confidence grew. Stimulated by her active role in engaging her cust…

From secondary meal prep, to employee of the month! Casey found success with supported employment

Image
Katie, a vocational counselor for The Choice Group in the Richmond area, has been working with her client, Casey, since June of last year. Relatively new to the workforce, Casey’s main obstacle was finding a position having limited work experience. Along with his mom and his DARS counselor, Katie and Casey sat down to discuss his previous jobs, training experiences, transportation options, hours of availability, and areas of interest. Where would he even want to work?
With an easy going, positive and flexible attitude, it wasn’t hard to find Casey an employer willing to hire him on! He soon found a position at the Chick-fil-A in Mechanicsville that met with of his availability and transportation options. When he began training, Katie worked with him on his basic food preparation tasks for the restaurant as well as customer service skills such as eye contact, multi-tasking and prioritizing in a fast-paced restaurant environment. Katie also worked with the employer, educating them on t…

Welcoming New Work Incentives Specialist, Brianna!

Image
Meet Brianna, our newest team member and Certified WISA Specialist who began training this week!

What does a Job Coach even do?

Darya "Dasha" Bell worked with our Northwest Manager, Adrienne Rudacille. After her experience, she created a super cute and insightful PowerPoint about what her job coach actually does day in and out! We think she nailed it!!!

Passion, Dedication, and Teamwork: Highlighting Buddy Blatz!

Image
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 fai…

Counselor Feature: Meet Cati Howard!

Image
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 te…

New Team Members!

Image
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

Meet Chantile!

Image
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 &quo…

For Brian, success is just a commute away!

Image
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 t…

Brittany found a great job match!

Image
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, Norther…

Experience and determination got Keaton the job he wanted!

Image
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 c…

March Events!

Image
The Choice Group is happy to participate in two great events this month that both happen to be taking place on Saturday, March 17th! We want to get awareness out there so anyone who wants to attend has ample time to plan ahead. We hope to see you out and about at one of these great events! 

Life After High School Transition & Resource Fair Join us in Charlottesville for this FREE event available to students, parents, and Educators!

March in March upcoming
The Culpeper County Disability Services Advisory Committee is hosting its 2nd Annual March in March from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Culpeper Baptist Church, 318 S. West St. The rain-or-shine event will promote disability awareness while providing resources and information about available services.

The event will involve a 30-45 minute walk or ride up to Main Street through the downtown area. There will be balloons, vendors, and food by the Lions Club. No sign-up is necessary. For information or to sponsor a booth, contact culpeperdisabi…

Client Success Story!

Image
Ryan Page, a vocational counselor for the south-west region of Virginia started working with his client in June of 2016.  As a friendly and hardworking individual, Ryan’s client felt like his skills fit well in a grocery store setting.  When he first began his job, Ryan’s client was to stock vegetables as well as sort and unload palettes.  They worked together on pacing and efficiency in completing his everyday tasks.
Now, after being employed for a year and a half, Ryan’s client has seen a raise and a promotion at work.  He is currently in follow-along services and his employer states that he continues to excel.

Lauren found success through Vocational Counseling!

Image
Katelyn Lacy, a vocational counselor in the Central Virginia region, started working with Lauren Garrett in April of 2017.  They began by completing extensive job development training for four and a half months. Together, they worked on job interviewing skills, social interactions within interviews as well as with coworkers.  Lauren worked on distinguishing boundaries with coworkers as well as learning appropriate topics of conversation in the workplace.

While Lauren has many personal strengths — she is a straightforward and friendly person— when Katelyn began working with her it was clear she wasn’t a fan of change. However, as time went on, Katelyn was able to support Lauren through the transition of finding employment, transportation, and learning communication styles with different individuals in different environments.  After this learning period and 11 interviews, Lauren obtained her current position at UVA Runk Dining Hall with Aramark as a Food Service worker in the Bakery!

D…

Christopher found a success through job training!

Image
Heather Gilman, a Choice Group counselor serving Central Virginia started working with her client, Christopher in July of 2017.  Together they made lists of Christopher’s job preferences such as cleaning and stocking, and she was able to set up vocational assessments to try out those skills in action. While he performed well, they did not seem to be the best job fit.  As Heather got to know Christopher and his family, discussing his hobbies and interests, his family told her that he enjoys cooking loves helping out in the kitchen. Bingo! They immediately began looking for opportunities in local restaurants to complete another assessment.

It was during this time that Heather came across a flyer for the Stone Soup Project. Stone Soup is a food service training program designed to help those who complete the course get necessary job skills to enter the workforce. After talking about the opportunity with Christopher, she advocated to support him in this program to his DARS Counselor.  Th…

Teresa Harold Planned her Success with Transitional Services

Image
When Teresa first began working with The Choice Group, she was a young lady finishing up her last year in high school and planning for her future. She was beginning to explore employment opportunities and starting to ask what a good career fit would be for her, but Teresa already knew the answer!  She was emphatic about becoming a baker. Teresa and her job coach, Justin, began working together to learn more about what was involved in a career as a baker. By completing situational assessments throughout the community, Teresa was able to gain hands-on experience with local businesses such as grocery store bakeries, cupcake shops, bread bakers, and fast food restaurants that prepared baked goods in-house. Through completing multiple assessments arranged by Justin, Teresa was able to truly hone in on her passion—cake decorating—and continued to build her skills with practice and baking courses offered in her high school as she prepared for graduation.

Throughout this time, Justin worked …

Introducing New Therapeutic Behavior Services

Image
We have many programs we offer to our clients, and they have now expanded to include Therapeutic Behavior Services:



Therapeutic Behavior Services are provided to clients with challenging behaviors that interfere with
community engagement, independent living, and employment. Using Applied Behavior Analysis and a person-centered approach, clients and their support teams are given the skills necessary to decrease
these challenging behaviors and replace them with ones that will help fulfill their goals. A Board
Certified Behavior Analyst will make assessments, develop support plans, train, and supervise behavioral interventions so that clients may make meaningful progress toward their goals.

Counselor Highlight: Jessica Womack!

Image
Jessica Womack has been a counselor for The Choice Group in the Southwest region of Virginia for over a year now! She specializes in CSS work, Community Support Services. Job seeking is not the only important step for many individuals seeking to maximize independence and with Jessica’s skills, she helps her clients prepare for other life tasks. Time management, grocery shopping and meal preparation, personal safety, laundry, medication, and money management are just a few of the everyday activities many of us take for granted but can seem daunting for an individual on their own for the first time.  One of her favorite parts of the job is that she “loves being able to work collaboratively with other counselors for the common cause of servicing individuals with disabilities in her community.” Keep up the good work, Jessica!