Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Customer Service With A Smile: Gina's Success Story

As soon as you walk into this grocery store you can’t miss Gina Loucks. She will be the first person to greet you and ask if she can help you. As a Courtesy Clerk, Gina is responsible for completing floor sweeps, collecting carts, bagging groceries, helping customers find products, and taking groceries out to customers’ cars. She has been working at her current employer since 2011 and loves what she does.  Ericka Neville, Vocational Counselor from The Choice Group, began working with Gina in 2010 to help her find a job that would be a good match for her skills and abilities. Gina is a people person and gets joy from helping others. Gina and Ericka worked to identify positions where she could interact with others, submitted applications, and practiced interviewing skills together. When Gina attended an interview with this grocery store, she knew right away that this was the job she wanted.  She was hired, began working in May 2011, and to this day continues to give 100% during every shift. Her managers say that she is always reliable and always helps out whenever they are short staffed. Gina starts working as soon as she clocks in and knows exactly what she is supposed to do. Although, more than anything, Gina’s smile, friendliness towards customers, and positive attitude is what makes her stand out. Gina has been recognized as the Employee of the Month in the past and gets customer compliments almost weekly for going the extra mile. Gina recalls the time that she found a tablet in an empty cart in the parking lot and returned it to Customer Service right away. When the customer realized that she had left it and returned to the store, she made sure to thank Gina for finding and returning the device. Her managers appreciate how she consistently goes above and beyond expectations for the customers. Ericka enjoys hearing the praise from both managers and customers when visiting Gina at work, monthly and is proud of the commitment Gina shows to her job.

When Gina is not working, she enjoys bowling and is part of a local bowling league. She likes adult coloring books, watching TV, and spending time with her family.

Shay's Success Story

When counselor Erin Lloyd began working with Shay Ruff, who interned with Blue Ridge Independent Living Center (BRILC) in Roanoke, Virginia back in 2007, she had no way of knowing that she would eventually become an employee.  Ten years later, in the spring of 2017, Shay was hired for a new position, as a Youth Transition Coordinator. She worked with her DARS Placement Counselor and, once hired, was introduced to Erin Lloyd, a Vocational Counselor with The Choice Group.  She and her employer communicated about the position and worked together to ensure accommodations were in place, so that Shay had a work environment in which she felt comfortable. She and her Vocational Counselor worked closely as she began learning her position and adjusted to working in an office setting four days each week. Shay set goals for herself, initially wanting to stay employed there three, and then six months. Almost two years later, Shay is still working with BRILC and speaks of her position with pride. She has a strong work ethic, an interest in helping others, and a supportive employer. Part of her role is to work with youth with disabilities and help them learn how to advocate for themselves and build independent living skills while transitioning into adulthood.  
Shay has a strong sense of self-advocacy, even being featured on the local news communicating the need for increased public transportation, including paratransit, in the Roanoke Valley. She has been a leader in advocacy groups and graduated from Radford University, where she studied social work. She markets services that BRILC offers the community and has a passion for her field. With a smile that rarely leaves her face when speaking of her work, Shay is always happy to answer questions and help others.    

Monday, March 11, 2019

Stacey Serves Smiles at a Local Italian Restaurant

Rachel, vocational counselor serving the hampton roads area, began working with Stacey Whitter in the Summer of 2016. Stacey completed the Project SEARCH program and was able to try out different internships throughout the hospital in which he interned for. He did a great job in all 3 of his internships, but, really enjoyed working in Food Services/Patient Foods. Rachel and Stacey quickly realized that one of Stacey's strengths was his ability to connect with people and bring joy to any work environment. Looking at his skills and interests, they really wanted to find Stacey a job where he could be himself and work alongside others who share the same values. Rachel first started working with YNot Italian in the summer of 2016 to find a client, through The Choice Group, to work for them. That is when Stacey found and landed his current position there! YNot Italian has always been a big supporter of disability awareness, especially during the month of October which is National Disability Employment Awareness month. They partner with organizations and school districts to hold fundraisers and events supporting the initiative. Stacey has successfully maintained the position at YNot Italian for over one year now and has even overcame some obstacles! One obstacle Stacey has overcome was his communication skills. Rachel and Stacey used a picture resume for Stacey's interview with YNot, so they were able to see photos of Stacey in action. They were able to see his abilities without Stacey having to verbally describe them. Stacey's speech becomes intelligible to a familiar listener and once the YNot team met Stacey, communication was no longer a barrier. Another barrier Stacey has overcome is transportation. Due to downtown congestion, it was difficult for Stacey's bus to pick him up safely. Stacey's coworkers would make sure Stacey was able to find his bus and make his way out there safely.
Stacey’s job tasks include folding the pizza boxes, preparing the salad dressings, setting the tables, cleaning the menus, and helping with any other task his manager may need him to do. Rachel checks on Stacey about once a month to ensure he is continuing to be successful on the job. Stacey receives tons of support from his managers and coworkers and are always there to help if Stacey needs anything while at work. Since beginning work at YNot Italian, Stacey has become more independent and loves going to work. He enjoys helping others and meeting new people. YNot Italian has been the perfect fit for Stacey and he is very happy.

Stacey has an uncanny ability to bring joy to any environment or setting that he enters. Stacey's attitude towards work and his general outlook on life impacts everyone he comes in contact with. “You can't help but smile when you meet Stacey” says Rachel. “In the 3 years I have been working with Stacey, one of the things that stands out most is Stacey's rhythm. He has some of the best dance moves of anyone I have seen. One of Stacey's all time favorite songs to dance to is The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song and he really gives Will Smith a run for his money. Stacey is a childhood Leukemia survivor and spent a lot of time in and out of hospital when he was younger. Stacey's mother told us that he started dancing at a very young age, while hospitalized, the nurses would dance with Stacey to keep his mind off of his treatment. Stacey is healthy now, and instead of dancing with nurses, he continues to dance with his coworkers.”