Recovery Stories

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Cheryl: A Supported Employment Success Story

Prior to becoming employed in June 2020, Cheryl had been seeking work for a little over two years. She disclosed that before deciding to engage in the Supported Employment program, “I was feeling really directionless and like I didn’t have much structure to my days. I was having a really hard time finding available jobs on my own. I needed help with my resume. And, I was consistently relapsing without any structure.” Cheryl actively engaged in Supported Employment services with the motivation to gain competitive employment right away. She was hired by Lifeline Connections as a Janitorial Team Member, providing specialized cleaning services in multiple facilities around Clark County, WA.

Supported Employment Supervisor, Debbie Peabody, assisted Cheryl with pre-vocational skills, “Cheryl focused on the task of achieving her career goal and I am impressed with what she has accomplished this year.” During the job search phase, Cheryl said, “I was able to get help with re-writing my resume and making it more polished. You found a number of jobs for me to apply for. And I feel like you’ve been really supportive. You followed up with Chris [hiring authority] a number of times to see where I was at in the process of getting a job, and you were keeping me hopeful and patient, because it did take a while.”

Cheryl’s polite persistence and patience helped her obtain a part-time career in a peer recovery environment, where her own personal success continues to evolve. Since becoming employed, Cheryl disclosed, “I have a lot more self-respect and independence. I like that I can pay my own bills. I’ve gotten my longest stretch of sobriety by being employed. I’ve made a really great friend; a co-worker.” Employment can be enjoyable, Cheryl described, “I like having autonomy, and that I feel like I’m giving back to the community; both the recovery community and Clark County. I like that Chris [supervisor] has been really understanding and supportive of some of my challenges. I really like my schedule and that it’s consistent. I like that I have a lot of responsibility here. I like being part of the team here.”

When asked what her friends and family think of her obtaining this job, Cheryl said, “I feel like they’re proud of me for working again, and finding some more success. [Mom] She’d been telling me that she’s proud of me.” The first job a person accepts is an important step in one’s

own career goal. Cheryl’s future career goal, she said, “is eventually I want to get back into full- time work, either in a kitchen or I would be open to doing even more janitorial stuff again. I think I would like to keep this job for as long as possible.”

Cheryl would like others to know, “I feel like Supported Employment is a really good tool. I think it really helped me overcome a lot of barriers to employment, because I was really feeling stuck with what to do with my resume, and how to broach finding a job while being in recovery, and in a COVID-19 challenged job market.”

Note: Cheryl gave us permission to publish her full name in this success story.

Freddie: A Supported Employment Success Story

Lifeline Connections’ Supported Employment program helps people find competitive employment. That means a real job in the community at a prevailing wage rate for which a non-disabled person might compete. Once a person becomes employed, follow-along supports are individualized and continued for as long as the person wants and needs the support. Freddie Bazan became employed part-time with PepsiCo – Frito Lay in July 2019. He continues participating in Supported Employment for job retention support and long-term career planning.

In addition to letters of support from a Clark County Superior Court Recovery Support Specialist and a Therapeutic Specialty Courts Clinician, the Supported Employment Supervisor, Debbie Peabody provided a letter of recommendation in which she wrote, “Freddie’s strengths include his eagerness to learn and improve, dependability, perfect attendance, and is always on-time and ready to work on any task assigned to him.” Debbie helped Freddie with writing his essay-like answers to a comprehensive questionnaire about his legal history and rehabilitation, and complete the Work Opportunity Tax Credit forms. Many apply for work with Frito Lay, but few are hired; so when the e-mail finally arrived that stated, “you have passed all background contingencies,” and “are now ready for onboarding,” Freddie felt a sense of accomplishment that he had not experienced in a long time.

There’s a lot of organization that goes into getting a job; from the start developing a resume, to the first day of new hire orientation. In Freddie’s case, becoming employed took teamwork and he said, “every little bit helps.” He participated in monthly collaborative support sessions with Debbie and the WA State DSHS Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Counselor, Helen Christensen. Helen was able to provide Freddie with supports including the required work clothes and a bus pass after becoming employed. “For almost a year, I have had the privilege of working with Mr. Freddie and have found him to be a respectful, responsible person,” Helen wrote in her letter of reference for him before his case was closed.

“What is motivating you to desire work?” is a question on the program referral. Freddie answered, “mainly for retirement. I need a retirement plan.” Post-employment supports help to encourage Freddie to stay focused on his goal to advance his career within the Frito Lay company, obtain a full-time position, and become eligible for company benefits including a 401(k) retirement plan. “They [employment specialists] helped me keep my job. And, helped me in a lot of ways with my self-esteem. They helped me out with job applications, because I wouldn’t have gotten nothing done. and what if something happens and I need help keeping my job? I don’t know what I would do. Plus, I want to get my CDL and apply for the Long-Haul Driver position for Frito Lay, hopefully in the future. And, I don’t know how or where to get that,” he said. Freddie plans to continue receiving time-unlimited employment supports until he has achieved his career goal.

Life seemed unmanageable for Freddie before he enrolled in the program. He explained, “I was in the worst of shape. I hadn’t been to a doctor forever. I was pretty much homeless. I hit the worst of the worst. My parents had just died. Everything was the worst time of my life. I was working making trusses, but I wasn’t really able to keep the job. I was homeless and working. And, I got arrested. When I got out, I went through Drug Court.” This year, Freddie accepted the house lead role at his recovery residence where he’s helping others early in their recovery with ideas on how to find a job and lets them know that having a job, having something to go do every day is life-changing.

Freddie said what he likes best about his job is, “they let me work by myself without supervision. I got benefits from Frito Lay like free clothes and free chips. I just got a sweater from Frito Lay, a real nice one! I feel like I got an actual job, you know, a job where I don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck once I get full-time.” He also described the improvement in his decision making skills, “I’m bankrupt, so I had to choose if I was going to renew auto insurance when I got paid.  Before, I wouldn’t have gotten auto insurance, but now I think if I don’t have it and get pulled over, I’d end up in jail and there goes my job, there goes everything. It’s a lot cheaper in the long run and in the short run, and so I got the insurance.”

When asked what his friends and family think of his job, Freddie said, “they all try to get hired there.” He would like others to know that this program not only helped him obtain a job, but also, “to be self-supportive. Take care of my health. Positive thinking. I’m not homeless. It changed everything. I have a future now!” Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed many of our community resources, Freddie was making progress toward earning a G.E.D. which he hopes to continue as soon as they start offering classes.

Note: Freddie gave us permission to publish his full name in this success story.

Mark: A Supported Employment Success Story

Everyone’s experienced some unexpected twists and turns in 2020 with the pandemic, record unemployment rates, and state issued mandatory stay-at-home orders. Additionally, some had pre-existing challenges finding employment. For example, at the beginning of the year, Mark Schilling was transitioning to living outside of prison. He said, “I was fresh out of prison in a new area. I felt lost and didn’t know which way to turn.” Prior to enrolling in the Supported Employment program, Mark walked-in to multiple businesses inquiring about part-time work, without getting the response he’d hoped for.

Mark thought his age and his legal history were preventing him from the life and career he wanted, therefore, he sought out support to find work. Mark is actively engaged in Lifeline Connections’ Supported Employment services where his motivation to gain competitive employment right away paid off. He’s employed by Recovery Café Clark County as a COVID-19 Monitor and Maintenance Worker. Mark’s job is to provide deep cleaning and sanitizing of the entire facility, monitoring individuals coming in and going out of the building, and support with maintaining and repairing functions of the facility.

Supported Employment Specialist, Moriah Gonzales, assisted Mark with learning pre-vocational skills and job development. She said, “Mark is highly motivated to achieve his career goals. He continues to demonstrate for others what perseverance and ambition truly is.” During the job search phase, Mark disclosed, “I felt more motivated and you helped me with my resume, and becoming more self-confident. I came to the program feeling beat down in my 60’s and didn’t know what to do. The steps that we took made me feel more confident and gave me a desire to want to get out and do something to better myself.”

Mark’s consistent drive led him into a part-time job in a peer recovery environment, which he claims to be his favorite aspect about this job. Since becoming employed, Mark expressed, “I feel grateful to be able to work with other people who are also in recovery. I have a chance to build new skills. I even got to attend a Recovery Coach training series with my employer.” Mark worked in auto sales prior to becoming incarcerated. He is discovering a new career interest now at his new job. “The thing I loved about being a car salesman was the people and helping them. I think that’s why I enjoy this job more, because I get to work in an environment where we are all supporting each other and growing together,” he said.

When asked what his friends and family think of his obtaining this job, Mark said, “They think it is great and wonderful. I talk with my daughter all the time on the phone and talk to her about my job. She is really proud of me and we have a great relationship.”

Since starting a new life, Mark has accepted this job with genuine gratitude and it’s an important step toward his long-term recovery goals. Mark described his future career goal, “I really enjoy getting to welcome members into the café. I feel like I have an important duty during this pandemic to maintain a clean and safe environment where people feel comfortable.

I get to take on various maintenance tasks. Although I don’t know exactly how long the Café will need a COVID Monitor, I think my future is within the recovery industry from now on.”

Mark would like others to know, “I feel like I started out with an institutionalized mindset and was overwhelmed trying to find work. But when I joined the Supported Employment program, I felt relieved and I was being met where I was at. The weekly support, encouragement, and professionalism really helped. I also received lots of support from the Recovery café and other community members and workers. Now that I am working, I have a new song in my heart.”

Note: Mark gave us permission to publish his full name in this success story.

Clark: A Supported Employment Success Story

Following over forty years of employment in the construction field, working with concrete, and as a Crane Operator and Welder, Clark was unexpectedly unemployed and not ready to retire. He began looking for a job, but found that it was easier said than done. Clark disclosed, “Getting a job these days isn’t like it used to be. You need computer skills. I was unemployed. I was depressed and I didn’t know what to do. I’d lost my job, so I was a little stressed and worried about things; worried about supporting my house. I was unemployed for about a year because of my drug addiction.”

He had contacted a temp employment agency who helped him get a job with Church & Dwight Co. Although the job kept him busy, it didn’t pay all the bills and wasn’t a permanent position. “I would feel more stable and secure if I had a something permanent, earning what I was making before,” said Clark when he met with the Supported Employment Supervisor, Debbie Peabody in January, 2020.

Clark wanted help to expand his career possibilities and that’s exactly what he received from the Lifeline Connections Supported Employment program; he was helped with pre-vocational skills during his search for a career-level job, working with machines and welding, where his skills and abilities would best suit his needs. “You helped me find jobs, updated my resume. Supportive, gave me a better outlook on my work ethics; that really helped me out a lot. I learned and know a little bit more about using the computer,” Clark said.

Presently, Clark is employed full-time as a Material Handler in a permanent position with Fabrication Products Inc.; forklift driving, material handling, loading trucks, and moving material around the yard. Clark shared, “I work really close to home which makes it comfortable and convenient. Seems nice to be back in the field making the money I need to make. And there’s more opportunity for me here; welding in the future.”

Clark’s said he’s experienced some changes in his life since this new job, “I’m earning more money, better pay. It is a learning thing, kinda interesting learning different ways of doing things. I would say my worries decreased. I’m focused on being more positive.” He’s participating in programs that align with his recovery goals; at the Recovery Café Clark County, he meets with a recovery support group on the weekend. Prior to COVID-19, he was also volunteering to help others in their journey of recovery.

Clark mentioned his friends and family are “glad I got this job. They’re happy about it. I know my brother’s thinking about getting on there.” The best part about his job is, “I get to work alone a lot. People I work with seem like pretty good people. I don’t mind driving forklift, it’s kinda fun,” Clark said.

For those who might be considering getting help with their career goals, Clark shared, “I really appreciate the support of another person helping me to obtain employment. I wouldn’t know

what to do if I had to do this on my own, or where to start. You made me feel more secure about finding a job; it was nice to have help, and someone to talk to about employment.”

“In my experience working with Clark on his career goals, I’ve observed his diligence and determination to achieve permanent employment in the field of his expertise. Clark has consistently demonstrated his commitment to recovery, a reliable strong work ethic, an eagerness to continue learning, dependability, honesty, and attention to detail. He worked full- time through the temp agency while at the same time applying for permanent work, training for Certification as a Peer Recovery Coach, and attending meetings. And, before the COVID-19 pandemic closed the many of our community resources, Clark was enrolled in a higher education program. Managing all those schedules – that’s remarkable in my book!” said Debbie Peabody.

Note: Clark gave us permission to publish his full name in this success story.

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