Showing posts from 2020

Meet Christy Stegman

Christy StegmanDirector of Community Services – NOVA
Ms. Stegman has remained busy completing WISA (Work Incentives Specialist Advocate) reports remotely. She begins the process by reviewing information over the phone and then sending the documents to the clients by mail to collect signatures. The reports are then written from home. Ms. Stegman offers to schedule a time to review the report remotely with the client, however they have the option to wait until social distancing orders are over to set an appointment to meet in person. For more information about WISA, click this link.

Going Above & Beyond: Setting Up A Virtual Meeting In Farsi

During the Coronavirus Crisis, The Choice Group continues to offer support to diverse clients in Northern Virginia. After receiving a referral for a woman in her 70’s with no work experience and limited English- speaking skills, a Choice Group manager conducted a virtual meeting in Farsi. Not only was the initial meeting conducted in Farsi, the manager also translated the paperwork into Farsi in order to better serve the client. After explaining the assessment and job development process to the client and her family, the client’s daughter wrote, ““Thank you so much for your kind attention and follow-ups. We are so blessed to have such caring with a golden heart as our counselor. My mother is so happy to find someone who speaks her language and gives her the hope she needs to continue her life. I could see the light of hope in her eyes.”

Front Line Health Care Worker - Project SEARCH

Following the successful completion of Project SEARCH, our client was hired at the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center as a Care Partner in Surgical Admitting Unit- Phase II. With the COVID-19 Pandemic, all elective surgeries have been cancelled and our client was scheduled to be transferred to a new department. 
Serving her in Long Term Employment Support Services, The Choice Group has had to adjust the ways we support her in this critical role. With The Choice Group staff staying in touch with the client, her mom, and her manager at the Medical Center, we have ensured this frontline employee was able to remain in her current department, in lieu of the scheduled transfer. Further, utilizing remote strategies, her Vocational Counselor was able to ensure our client was able to safely adjust to her new critical roles and responsibilities which include taking employees’ temperatures as they report to work.  
We thank our client for her hard work, dedication to her job and working the frontl…

Charlottesville: PEERS

PEERS for Young Adults is a 16-week social skills training program designed to help young adults with autism spectrum disorder and other social challenges make and keep friends. The Choice Group began its fourth cohort with a group of young adults and their social coaches in Charlottesville in January 2020. After meeting in person weekly through February, the PEERS instructors took a creative approach in order to comply with COVID-19 social distancing norms and regulations while at the same time ensuring the students could complete all of modules as scheduled. Setting up Zoom meetings and creating Power Point lessons, the PEERS instructors presented the lessons on, “Dating Etiquette”, “Handling Disagreements”, and “Bullying” online. Feedback from the students and their social coaches was positive and the students are scheduled to graduate on time and look forward to continuing their weekly meetings, but as a group social club doing Dungeons and Dragons via Zoom.

Virtual PRE-ETS classes are designed to assist students to identify career interests, develop job seeking skills, and complete applications

The Choice Group is working together with DARS to identify high school seniors from Fauquier County and Culpeper County to begin two PATHWAYS classes. These virtual PRE-ETS classes are designed to assist students to identify career interests, develop job seeking skills, and complete applications. The students will graduate with an individualized portfolio highlighting their career interests and skills that can be used as roadmaps as they continue on their chosen career paths.  
In collaboration with The Choice Group, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors in the Culpeper DARS office are providing an innovative method of supports for students in Fauquier County Schools. Working with transition staff at the schools, The Choice Group is preparing students with job readiness skills as they assist students with interest inventory assessments and virtual classroom discussions. The Choice Group will utilize the information learned from these virtual classrooms for further assessments as the pan…

Developing employment leads for our clients by calling existing business contacts

In Virginia’s North Western Region, The Choice Group continues to support high school seniors through the COVID-19 Pandemic. One Vocational Counselor was able to develop employment leads for his client by calling existing business contacts and subsequently completing job applications with the client over the phone. 
The Vocational Counselor then assisted the client during the in-person interview at a local grocer, where the client was hired as a Quality Assurance Associate. With a strong performance record, and support from the Vocational Counselor, this motivated student turned employee has been promoted to cashier and is making a difference in his community as an essential employee working nearly 25 hours per week.

Client relocates to Richmond in search of her dream job of working with residents in a geriatric community

After spending years working in a Northern Virginia grocery store, our client relocated to Richmond in search of her dream job of working with residents in a geriatric community. She was supported by DARS, who helped her with job development, to locate her dream job. As a graduate of George Mason’s “Mason Life Program,” she shared her dream with her Vocational Counselor, Dana O’Connell. O'Connell utilized her contacts to find her client a position at a local Assisted Living facility. 
Originally hired and trained to work in the residents’ dining room, the client’s responsibilities abruptly changed as COVID-19 swept the nation and altered her work duties. The Choice Group’s Vocational Counselor immediately made adjustments to the client’s job site to help her reorient to new aspects of her position. Creating visual checklists, she developed compensatory strategies for the client to adapt to her new position of delivering meals to residents in their rooms. In addition to teaching thi…

Cornell University Article Features Work Incentive Specialist

Congratulations to Milton for being interviewed in Cornell's latest article about work benefits. Read his section of the article here, link to the full story included.
"For a person who wants to rely less on disability-related benefits from the government and more on their own income, it can be challenging to best use the available benefits and work incentives." 
Fortunately, The Choice Group's Milton Johnson (profiled by Cornell) can offer the guidance to help clients navigate these programs and find individualized solutions."
For a person who wants to rely less on disability-related benefits from the government and more on their own income, it can be challenging to best use the available benefits and work incentives. Milton Johnson, a former student in the unique Work Incentive Practitioner Credential program at the Yang-Tan Institute (YTI) and an employee at The Choice Group, knows about this both personally and professionally. Prior to joining The Choice Group i…

Covid-19 Announcement

A message from the CEO:

The impact of COVID-19 has been far-reaching and historic. As the virus continues to threaten the world, we remain hopeful, yet we do not know when an end to this pandemic will be in sight. We are indeed in uncharted waters.
The Choice Group remains focused on our mission and on the health and well-being of all those we serve. We are taking every precaution as we continue to provide essential services in the community. The Choice Group is committed to providing services while providing resources, education and training to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the many communities around the Commonwealth that we proudly serve.
The Choice Group is continually staying up to date with local, state and federal authorities and complying with all mandates and directives. Our dedicated staff is working virtually with clients as much as possible. The leadership team at The Choice Group is meeting each day to respond to this rapidly evolving and challenging time.

Rebecca's Enthusiasm!

“I love it here. I am able to go to work, eat dinner, and start working. And then I go home to my own apartment and care for my cats.” Two years ago, Rebecca was living in a group home in New Jersey and was working at a local retail store. Although she loved living there, she wanted to be closer to her family and have a cat. 
When she moved back to Virginia and into her parents’ home, she wanted to find a job to start earning and saving money. That’s when she met Kate and the pair began searching for a job. At the same time that she was working with Kate, Rebecca was also working with her Case Manager to help find an apartment in Charlottesville. Together, Rebecca and her Vocational Counselor applied and interviewed for over 9 different jobs. And when Rebecca attended a job fair in Charlottesville with a food service company, she was offered a job. 
At the same time she interviewed to work at the dining hall, she moved into her own apartment. Rebecca has worked at Runk Dining Hall at…

Cameron's Heavy Lifting

Cameron and his counselor, Nancy, set out to find him employment with a goal of working in a hardware store. In May of 2016, he became employed at the Lowe's in Suffolk through the Supported Employment program. 

Cameron is hardworking, reliable, loves manual labor, and cares about other people.

The challenge came because of his specificity about working in a hardware store. There are a very limited number of hardware stores or stores in general in his area of Hampton Roads. His mom drives him to work so he and Nancy had to look in Suffolk, Franklin and Windsor for positions. These are relatively rural areas with limited numbers of stores, especially hardware stores.

However, he found a job! Cameron is a Loader but often helps the team in other departments by collecting carts, helping customers load their cars, stocking, restocking, filling the water tank for employees, assisting customers, helping with any heavy lifting, and helping the team solve problems.

To help him stay on task, N…

Nicholas' Communication Journey

Nicholas expressed interest in stocking, and was open to stocking anywhere.  His vocational counselor, Alexandra, went in person to the employer several times to advocate for him.  He doesn't communicate verbally so Alexandra worked with him to create a "one pager" for the employer.  Nicholas used a communication device to type out his one pager, explaining why he wanted to work for the employer, and a little bit about himself. He was open about his communication challenges, however that he was just like everyone else.

Nicholas is friendly, and outgoing. He does not let his disability hold him back, and although he cannot always communicate with customers, he always offers a smile and directs guests to an associate if they have questions.  He is detail orientated, remains focused at work and always has a smile on his face.

Alexandra assisted him with developing strategies to communicate with his employer, as well as customers in non-verbal ways.  They created a communicati…

Vocational Counselor Position

Vocational Counselors Needed in Various Parts of the State!

Are you searching for a job that’s not “just a job?” Are you looking to break free from a traditional 9-5 work week? Are you passionate about helping people succeed in becoming independent? We help people with disabilities live up to their abilities! 

We are looking for dedicated people to join our team in our mission to help our clients find meaningful employment. This position will primarily serve clients in the community in the Farmville, Harrisonburg, Winchester, Chesapeake, Williamsburg, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Roanoke, Manassas, Leesburg or Fairfax areas. Our programs provide support for individuals with varying abilities in finding and maintaining successful, integrated employment in the community. 

Compensation is excellent and based on experience, education, and additional applicable skills Requirements: This position requires a dedicated person to be a self-starter with great time management skills. This is a communi…

Alyssa's Caffeinated Adventure!

Heather started working with Alyssa in May of 2019 when Alyssa participated in the DARS (Department for Aging & Rehabilitative Services) Pre-ETS program. Pre-ETS stands for Pre-Employment Transition Services.  Heather and Alyssa continued to work together under DARS through situational assessments to try out various tasks. Two things were clear: Alyssa loves to help people and to follow a routine. In October 2019, she was hired at Stand Up Coffee!

During assessments, it was determined that Alyssa does well with a rountine and likes to be around people or helping people. It was determined that Alyssa's preferences were to work on a sales floor or in a production type of position. Together, Alyssa and Heather made a list of employers in the town of Orange where Alyssa could get transportation.

One day, while Heather was contacting employers to ask about open positions and discuss Alyssa's abilities, she called Stand Up Coffee. About 30 minutes prior to the phone call, th…

Diane's Home Health Journey

Meet Diane, a young woman with dreams of helping others. Diana and her counselor, Justin, sought out employment at Home Recovery Home-Aid, an at-home health service provider, and Diane has worked there for the last five months.

First, Diane and Justin worked together to identify what age group she enjoyed working with the most. They then visited several different health clinics/centers that were hiring so that she could get a better understanding about how much work and support went into taking care of people. Diane and Justin also worked together to ensure that the job was a great match with her personality, because she is very shy. They both sat down and met with people at each center and together led different conversations so that she could learn ways to communicate with others.

Her determination to do good and find meaningful employment played a huge role in her position. Diane is really dedicated to helping others and also providing meaningful long term care to others just lik…

Chris' Soaring Success

Meet Christopher! Full-time employee at Southern Stainless in Waynesboro, pilot (yes, PILOT!), and accomplished performing musician.  In addition to flying, Chris has also designed his own airplanes. 

For a couple of years now Chris has been at Southern Stainless, a very successful fabrication and manufacturing company.  They did not hesitate to hire Chris and have been incredibly supportive the entire time he has been there.  Chris' vocational counselor, Davide, spoke to several associates there on a regular basis when Chris first started to check in and offer additional support.  They always took the time to update Davide and express how pleased they were with having Chris there.  They were professional, genuine, and always had remarkable phone etiquette.  

Chris’ main duty there is to clean the manufactured metal parts and finished pieces.  This is essentially the last step before they are shipped off to their customers.  Chris is meticulous and takes great pride in making the fi…

Tim Works Hard at the Hardware Store

Tim and his counselor, Nancy, have worked together since 2014 to help Tim find employment in the Hampton Roads area. Currently, Tim works at Lowe's and is coming up on his two-year mark!

Tim is an extremely hard worker and has a great work ethic. He is friendly and personable and gets along well with others. However, he did face some obstacles when looking for a job. He had to find a job in Franklin since he does not drive and was interested in any kind of customer service or food service position. He had a job at a restaurant as a lobby attendant but got laid off due to lack of hours.

Limited work experience was another obstacle. Nancy initially helped him get a courtesy clerk position at a supermarket in July 2014. He was there until the store closed in April 2018. She then almost immediately helped Tim get another job at the local peanut plant, but due to his disability, the job was too strenuous. 

The Choice Group then assisted him in getting a Loader position at Lowe's. Tim …

Latrell Excels!

Meet Latrell, a dedicated employee at a general merchandise store in Franklin, Virginia. His counselor, Nancy, has worked with him since April of 2015 to land his current job. Now, Latrell has been with his employer for 5 years this coming May.

It wasn't easy to begin with, though. Latrell wanted a stocking type position so they targeted stores in the Franklin area that had stocking positions. There are few employers in Franklin that hire for stocking and at the time, Latrell did not drive so we were limited to Franklin only. He also had no prior work experience.

However, he got the job in the end! His duties include unloading the truck, stocking items on the store shelves, and backroom sorting. Latrell has earned several raises since he first started working there. He has also earned several bonuses.

Latrell is in follow along services, so Nancy keeps in monthly contact with him and his managers. He has become a more confident, sociable and independent person. 

Outside of work, Latre…