Karen D. Van Curen, Mike Sever, Mike Thompson

Episode 004: The sweet story of the Hershey Company’s HEROS Program

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In this episode you can hear how the Hershey Company is setting a new standard of excellence in hiring individuals with disabilities. And our show today is all about how they brought this great program online.

Episode 004 Transcript

Transcribed by Cameron Payne Scott

The VR Workforce Studio: inspiration, education, and affirmation at work.

Welcome to the VR Workforce Studio: education, inspiration, and affirmation at work!  We’re bringing you the stories of individuals with disabilities who are in or preparing to be part of the workforce in Virginia. And we’re celebrating not only the champions of business and industry that hire individuals with disabilities, but also the vocational rehabilitation professionals who’ve dedicated their lives and careers to creating hope and a path forward to employment so individuals with disabilities can work and lead more fulfilling lives while building Virginia’s workforce and moving our economy forward.

This is Episode No. 4.  We are thrilled and delighted that you’ve joined us for this podcast!  And on today’s show, from our Business Industry and Employer Gateway category, the sweet story of the Hershey Company’s HEROS Program. This great company, in my opinion, is setting a new standard of excellence in hiring individuals with disabilities. And our show today is all about how they brought this great program online.

Also, a little interesting, we are tackling some technical challenges today: bringing in offsite guests from two different locations.  So, here’s the rundown.  First, we have a very distinguished panel from Hershey, their Senior HR Manager at the Stuart’s Draft, VA plant Karen Van Curen; also, the plant’s Site Operations Manager Mike Sever and employee Mike Thompson, who was also a Hero-Program participant. Now, they are remote from a meeting with the Virginia Board of Workforce Development. This is a very high-level board, and they meet all over the state. But today, they are at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center.  The Virginia Board of Workforce Development: now listen to this. They are a business-led board that acts as the principal advisor to the Governor of Virginia.  They also provide strategic leadership to the state regarding the workforce development system and its efforts to create a strong workforce aligned with employer needs.

So one of the key parts of their meeting is hearing about how our state VR agency, the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services and Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center are working with Hershey. Now, just a side note: a key advisor for workforce development, Elizabeth Creamer, who works for the Secretary of Commerce and Trade in the McAuliffe Administration, is at the meeting and will be on this podcast in an upcoming episode to discuss the context for workforce and give us some big-picture oversights. And we’ll also drill down into some of the key issues for individuals with disabilities and those who employ individuals with disabilities.  The big-picture view right now, things like the Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA). There are some key things going on. We’ve had 24 separate workforce development plans administered by 8 state agencies in the past.  That all, under WIOA, becomes a single plan.  And what’s exciting to me is to see that individuals with disabilities and folks like VR professionals really have a seat at the table in this discussion as we move forward.

Also, Executive Order No. 23 from Governor McAuliffe, talking about a million-and-a-half jobs coming online in the next few years, how we’re going to train and credential folks to take on the challenges of the future. And I tell you, individuals with disabilities are key in that conversation. So, we’re going to talk about that with Elizabeth (Creamer).

Also, we’ll get into OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance [Programs]) and those 503 regulations. Now, they stipulate that companies that have a contract with the federal government need to have at least 7% of their workforce made up of individuals with disabilities.  So, Elizabeth Creamer, on an upcoming episode, to discuss some of these bigger-picture issues and how they affect individuals with disabilities.  But the Virginia Board of Workforce Development, truly following this Hershey model, because it is working.

Also on the podcast today, from a conference location offsite, is Cindy Roberts, business development manager for the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).  She is out there pounding the sidewalks, constantly trying to open up doors of opportunity for our consumers and make sure that our VR system is aligned in a way that it meets the needs of business and industry. We’ll hear from her.

Also, here in the studio with me now, director of physical therapy Sharon Russo and vocational instructor Steve Sweeney, who worked on this project with Hershey. So, six guests, three locations, and we’re going to bring all of that into the podcast environment and tell this incredible story.  Up next, the sweet success of the Hershey HEROS Program.

Karen Van Curen is the senior HR manager at the Stuart’s Draft plant of the Hershey Company. Karen, welcome to the VR Workforce Studio!

VAN CUREN: Good Morning!

So, you have a new apprenticeship-based program to hire individuals with disabilities.  What is it?

VAN CUREN: Our program, we have called Hershey Extends Real Opportunity to Succeed. We’re pleased on behalf of the Hershey company to be here today to share with you a program that is making a difference in our plant, and I think it is making a difference in the community.  And so, I would like to start just by saying that our program has been developed through a very strong partnership with DARS and with Woodrow Wilson. So, our company started out in Hershey developing a program at our Lancaster, Pennsylvania site.  And from there, it has expanded out to other Hershey plant manufacturing locations.

Well, it certainly seems like there is alot of excitement in the air about the Hershey HEROS Program.  Karen, let us pull Cindy Roberts into the podcast.  Cindy is a long-time friend and colleague and business development manager doing great things in disability employment.

ROBERTS:  Thank you!

Cindy, actually, off-site at a conference presenting on the Hershey HEROS Model. Cindy, welcome to the podcast!

ROBERTS:  It is an absolute honor to be here with you this morning!

Okay Cindy, you worked with Karen and the folks at Hershey Corporate since the Stuart’s Draft plant became involved with the Hershey program. How did you get involved?

ROBERTS:  We received a phone call from Stacy Orwan. She was a Supply Chain Modeler up in Hershey, who was working with the company’s HEROS program. And from the very first time I talked with her, we had a wonderful connection. Come to find out, Stacy has a daughter with Down syndrome. Well, I have a nephew with Down syndrome who is near and dear to my heart.  And I love him very, very much.  And so, what was so fortunate is that Stacy and I were able to connect on a personal level, as well as a professional level. And so, from here on out, our conversations usually began with you know silly little antics from her daughter or my nephew and then we would get on talking about the great things that Hershey HEROS was doing.  And so, basically, Stacy was telling me what had happened up in Pennsylvania was that Hershey started to hire a few folks with disabilities and what they realized was that this is a whole new applicant pool that we have never really considered hiring.  And what they brought to the Hershey program up in Pennsylvania were folks that were so excited to be there to go to work. And they were there early, they motivated the staff, and she said “You know, Cindy, it was so positive that we started a program specifically for employing persons with disabilities.” And therefore, the HEROS Program was born!

Karen, for a company as massive as Hershey, I can’t imagine them getting into a major project such as the HEROS Program without first building a business case.

VAN CUREN: Hiring individuals with disabilities is good business. It has been good business for us. We think it can be good business for a number of companies.  Also, we need a program that is simple because the manufacturing environment is a very fast-paced environment.  We need a simple program that works for us.  87% of the American public likes to do business with a company that would support those with disabilities and hire those with disabilities.  It is a strategic way to strengthen the workforce. Workers with disabilities have average or above average performance ratings and abilities to do the jobs as well as excellent attendance, loyalty, and higher retention rates maybe than other similarly situated employees at our facility.  It is an informed business decision; it is part of our overall talent strategy at Hershey, not only to hire folks with disabilities and integrate them into our workforce, but also to hire veterans, minorities, and other folks as a part of our overall talent strategy.

What were the first steps and how did you get started?

VAN CUREN:  We started out not trying to create the wheel or invent the wheel, but learn from others. So, we were able to experience folks with disabilities working in the warehousing environment in a Lowe’s distribution center, as well as in a Walgreens distribution center.  And so for our site, in particular, this was very important for our leadership group.  So, we went to the Walgreens distribution site in Anderson, South Carolina.  And we watched this similar program in place.  We watched workers with disabilities work alongside with workers without disabilities.  And it was seamless.  We were not able to tell who had a disability and who did not have a disability.  So, we were able to ask a number of questions of the leaders in that organization so that we could better develop our program.

How do you create a team an organizational mindset for something like Hershey HEROS Program?

VAN CUREN:  Building a team was important. So at Hershey, there is a steering team for our program.  And it is supported by senior leaders.  There is a partnership between the HR Function, the legal group, and our government relations group as well.  And so then, it is important to develop a plan, set expectations, have some milestones, have a timeline, find where you are achieving your goals, and then make sure that the steering committee that is supporting you is kept up to date at any given point and time.

You are listening to the VR Workforce Studio with the story of the Hershey HEROS Program!

So Cindy, there is lots of developmental activity going on at the Stuart’s Draft plant, Karen and her team prepping the staff on site. And who was established as the primary point of contact to bring in all of the external partners?

ROBERTS:  And so, basically, what was established was that I was going to be the point of contact for Hershey. And the partners that they wanted to come to the table were, of course, the DARS placement counselors, Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, Department for Blind and Vision Impaired, employment service organizations.  There again, employment service organizations have are job coaches and agency contracts.  They are there for job coaches to actually be able to go in and work with our persons with disabilities.  Our veteran’s representatives, so it was very, very easy.  All I had to do make a phone call to the different partners and everybody was so excited about this opportunity again that was coming to our area.

So what was it like at the local plant here in Stuart’s Draft to engage the employees for the first time?

VAN CUREN:  So, for us at our site in Stuart’s Draft, it was very important that we come before the workforce and talk about what we were going to do at our plant and why we were going to do it.  So, the Stuart’s Draft facility has hired folks with disabilities for many years, but there has not been a structured program.  So, with our structured program, we were able to communicate to the workforce what our goals were, what our timeline would be, etc.  We were also able to address concerns. I will share more of that as we go forward.  But our leaders naturally on the production floor had some concerns as to how this might realistically happen.

Karen, how were these jobs structured?

VAN CUREN:  We made a commitment early on at the Hershey Company.  When we kicked the program off, we decided we were going to have workers with disabilities in our facility that would do the same work. So while we were willing to give additional training time, the work had to be the same, the pay had to be the same, and the expectations had to be the same as any other worker in our facility.

 

Were there any differences or allowances made for HEROS workers?

VAN CUREN: So we decided that, for our jobs, a six-month training program would be adequate in most cases for most of our entry-level jobs.  Other workers who come from the street have a 120-day training program or probationary period.

What were the minimum requirements?

VAN CUREN: We wanted folks to meet the minimum requirements that everyone meets in terms of employment with us.  And those minimum requirements, High School Diploma or GED, ability to read, write and understand English, ability to lift 50 pounds, and able to work any shift flexibly.

So, what did you do to launch this initiative actually at the plant?

VAN CUREN: Getting started, we did announce the program to our folks. We were able to use video footage both from our facility in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as well as the Walgreens distribution center.

Think back, if you will.  What was the most significant result of that kickoff meeting?

VAN CUREN:  Folks stood up and agreed to be mentors.  And to mentor the people that we brought into our plant to help them integrate on to the line or shift that they were about to be assigned to.  A 650,000 square ft. manufacturing facility is a large facility, and it can be very intimidating. So having a buddy coworker who can be there and help you and show you to the restroom or to the lunch area or maybe other important parts of the facility that you may need to go to is a very important thing.

So, you have all of this initial start-up activity going on at the plant.  And Cindy, you were talking with Stacy about reaching out to partners.

ROBERTS:  What they said was, “Do you know what Cindy, we really want the folks there, the coworkers in Stuart’s Draft, to realize ‘What is it like to work with a person with a disability’”? And the Human Resource staff, I will tell you what, in Stuart’s Draft, they were a little bit nervous because this was something very, very new.  Even though, I know good and well they have plenty of folks in their plant that had disabilities, they were hidden disabilities.  They weren’t visual.  So there was a little bit of nervousness on behalf of the local human resource staff.  So, I had quite a few meetings with them.  Just letting them know what the face of a DARS consumer would look like.  And so what was really nice was that we had three different disability awareness and etiquette sessions and we pretty much trained everybody within the Hershey plant.

Karen, once you pulled all of this together, what was the conversation going on at the time?

VAN CUREN:  We did have a kickoff event.  We had our managers and leaders present at the kickoff event, and we had representatives from DARS who were there.  And what they did was that they came in and they just talked very simply about what a program could be like with people with disabilities working in our facility.  And they took questions.  Our leaders were able to ask very frank, honest and open questions and receive answers about, you know, ‘What happens if someone cannot do the job?’ or ‘What happens if we need more training?’ or ‘What if we don’t know how to handle a situation?’ And so, Cindy and her group, they have been available.  All we have to do is pick up the phone and call and we have a resource.  We have what we need to move forward.

So, what lessons have been learned as you worked with the Hershey HEROS Program?

VAN CUREN:  We’ve learned a few things along the way.  So, for sure, your senior leadership has to be engaged.  You need buddies and mentors on the shifts that you’re going to have folks working on.  And you have to have some targets and you need to know if you are achieving those targets.  And the two-way relationship with the partner agencies is so very important.  Having a single point of contact with DARS helps so much because whatever we need, we call one person, she directs us to the appropriate resource and then those folks are available to help us.  And then, having just awareness training is very important thing.  So, with our hourly workforce, we did conduct just general awareness training about working with folks with disabilities.  And so, Cindy brought a team, came into the middle of the night, and met with (we were on 24/7) so we met with each shift that was affected and that individual crew and talked to those folks about working with people with disabilities.  And so, one of the things that we learned is that our lines go up and down seasonally according to our business needs, and as lines go up and down, workers move from one line to another.  That can be a bit challenging because it seems to work well when a worker is assigned to one job.  But then as the moves occur, we’ve learned that it is very important to prepare the next line to have mentors or buddies available to work with folks with disabilities when they get to the lines.

How many HEROS employees are still with you?

VAN CUREN:  For Hershey, our overall retention rate for people with disabilities has been 70%.  For the Stuart’s Draft manufacturing facility, we’ve been at 83%.  And we really attribute that to the strong partnership that we’ve had with DARS and with Woodrow Wilson.

Okay, another question, what are key aspects of the work plan between Hershey and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services that you would consider best practices for someone thinking about hiring individuals with disabilities?

VAN CUREN:  We do have that single agency point of contact.  It is very important for an employer not to have to go through 10 business cards to figure out who they need to talk to about whatever the matter is so that is invaluable to us.  Because our environment is such that people with certain disabilities may be able to work there and others may not.  But understanding our environment, it helps them to better screen and help us select the right candidates for employment.  And so that screening process has been invaluable as well because, understanding our needs, models have been able to be set up at Woodrow Wilson such that folks can get an idea of what it is like to work on a manufacturing line in an assimilated environment.

Steve Sweeney is a vocational instructor at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center and Sharon Russo is the director of physical therapy.  Both worked with Hershey to perform a number of assessments, some of those Karen is already talked about.  Steve and Sharon, welcome to the podcast!

RUSSO:  Thank you, glad to be here!

SWEENEY:  Glad to be here, thank you!

What was it like visiting the Hershey plant?

SWEENEY:  Oh, it was sweet!

RUSSO: [Sweeney and Russo laughing] Ah, you had to get that in there, didn’t you Steve?  It was a good experience for us to go out and see the actual production on the floor, all of the different jobs and, in particular, the ones that they were looking to fill in the HEROS program.

SWEENEY: Yeah, it was essential because some of the things we picked up in what we actually tried to simulate in our classroom included things such as using 24-hour stamp that they used there, making sure that some of the color identification was available and that that was part of the process we used in our assessment as well as just seeing what types of tasks.  For instance, there was one situation where they had to step over an area which, as long as it is not working, that is perfectly fine.  But if you have a visual impairment that would be an issue if you did or did not know that it was working.  So there are some things that were able to pick up on that we would not have seen otherwise.

RUSSO:  And just going on a paper job description of how much they need to be able to lift, that does not tell you nearly as much as seeing them actually going through the motions and seeing what body positions they had to work from and where they were having to lift the boxes from and to what heights and what sort of surfaces they were having to move across and push the trolleys around.

SWEENEY: What I recall is the one person who said that they had to there was this one machine that lifts a 65-lb box from one area to another.  And normally, that is working fine and that is not a problem.  However, sometimes the machine goes down and so that person on that line would be required to, from short distances, lift that 65-lb box on to there, so they had to be able to do that.  And that wasn’t necessarily identified in the job description, exactly.

RUSSO: Yeah, and just seeing, one of the jobs was looking at quality control and just the amount of the speed at which they had to identify a Christmas tree that had an extra branch and, you know, be able to pull that off of the line.  So, in the PWPE or the Physical Work Performance Evaluation, did some simulation of identifying the oddball in a ray of little discs [?] and seeing if they can identify what is not right here in a quick fashion.

SWEENEY: And a similar matter, we did something when we created the ‘salt activity’ in our classroom. We did an additional thing of adding different colored dots to each salt box, so they had to differentiate sort and be able to do this.  And one of the things that came up was that one person was colorblind.  Okay, that’s alright.  But does that impact their ability to do the job?  It depends. And so, this is just good information that we were able to obtain and work with.

 

Sharon, could you describe the Physical Work Performance Evaluation (PWPE)?

RUSSO: Alright, it is a standardized, physical work performance evaluation, often called ‘Work Capacities’ or ‘Functional Capacity Evaluation.’ But this is a program that we’ve been using now for over 10 years that is a competency based program where we had staff trained and there is a standardized testing process, including standardized criteria for determining when someone has reached their safe maximal effort on any particular task.  And all of those tasks are assessed and the data is collected and it lends itself to providing a very graphically explanatory report to the employer or to the case manager or the job coach working with the consumer to identify which tasks they are strong with and which tasks they might need some type of job accommodation with.  And it produces a report that we were able to enter the requirements of the different jobs Hershey was trying to fill and right alongside of the individual’s performance so they could see in a chart, “Yes, yes, yes…they met all of those criteria,” and which ones they might have difficulty with and we could make some suggestions as to potential accommodations or steer them towards one job vs. the other because they had met more the criteria for one particular job setting than the other.

Steve, how did you assess someone’s ability to work on a conveyor system?

SWEENEY: So, we had the opportunity to match what Sharon (Russo) was doing in take additional information and try to identify using the current tools we already use on assessment to see if the consumer would be interested in having the ability, or ‘Do they ability to do this?’ Do they have the interest in doing this?’ ‘Do they have the capacity to do this?’ ‘Do they have the soft skills as well as the hard skills required to be considered as a viable candidate for this type of employment?’ And so, what we did was, using boxes of salt that we put in cases and, as I said, we identified each box of salt with different colored labels and then we created an activity where they, throughout the day, would begin and then end on doing repetitious type activities of sorting, re-boxing, unboxing, and just going around in cycle using a conveyor system.  And we were able to observe, ‘Do they have the ability to follow directions? ‘Do they have the interest in doing repetitious behavior?’ ‘Do they have the opportunity to stand and perform all of the necessary tasks?’ And this information we were then able to encapsulate in a standard assessment form.  And then, also, with that information, went to the VR counselor, and they were able to take that information and say ‘This generally seems to be a good candidate.’ And so, there were screening tools that would be able to give us a better candidate.  And I think that it was effective, and it worked well.

So Cindy, how do we locate the candidates for this program?

ROBERTS:  What we did was, because these jobs were paying $17 per hour, which is really, really good over in the valley (Shenandoah), that is a life-changing wage for alot of our consumers, it truly is.  We went on and provided outreach to our DARS office in Fishersville, Harrisonburg, and Charlottesville.  And we asked them to please go on, look at your caseloads; see who you think is going to basically fit the bill.  Because we wanted to do, again, our absolute best to provide Hershey with the consumers they wanted to have working there.  And so, we work closely with the counselors, we went through the caseloads, I work closely with DBVI, and then once we actually got started you know meeting with and getting a better feel of who we felt was going to be a good job match, then we would actually sit down and talk about the job description: Who’s going to be lifting?  Who’s going to be standing? Who’s going to work weekends? Who’s going to work holidays? We have some consumers who said, “You know what, Cindy, I don’t know if I really want to do that.  I would rather have more of a Monday through Friday, you know, no weekend type of position.” But that was okay!  They let us know because there were so many folks that wanted to be able to do these positions.

Karen, what kind of supports have you brought to bear at the Stuart’s Draft plant?

VAN CUREN:  Candidates, have been supported throughout the process.  Mike Thompson, who is one of our employees, he is in the process of advancing his employment into a higher-level, higher-skill, more technical and higher-paying role. And we have been able to just call and say “Hey, we need some help.  We’ve got an employee who’s advancing and we want to be sure that we are providing the proper coaching opportunities.”

What about job coaching?

ROBERTS: Hershey, you know, they were really adamant.  They said, “You know, we really want job coaches to come in with your consumers.  We want them to work side-by-side with your consumers.”  And I tell you what, once I toured Hershey, I would need a job coach, even if I needed to find my work station.  It was HUGE!  And it seemed like you needed to walk three miles just to get to your work station.  But it was absolutely massive, and so the job coaching began.  Our consumers were able to select a job coach and so the job coaches had some additional training as well and actually went in with the consumers and went through the orientation process.  And then started with them on the job…

Cindy, let me ask Karen this question.  How long are job coaches needed in a scenario like the one in this program?

VAN CUREN:  We have had cases where we just need a coach to come in for just a couple of days or a maybe week for additional support.  And so, just the comprehensive center that we’ve been able to find in our partnership has been invaluable.

Let’s bring Mike Thompson into the conversation.  Mike is a Hershey employee from the HEROS Program. Mike, welcome to the podcast!

THOMPSON: Thanks for having me here!

So what job did you first get at Hershey?  What was your first job?

THOMPSON: Basically case packing.

Sounds fast-paced and critical!

THOMPSON: You’re putting a bundle of cases in a machine and automatically folds them, tapes them, and goes around and packs them in an automated machine.  That’s all you’re doing.  But yet, it is still stressful because you have to take care of everything else around there.  But the job gets done.

I’m folding the ends of it, making sure they go through the tape machine, and getting the codes put on, making sure the codes are proper, making sure the shipping codes are right, everything before it goes up the line into the shipping area.

Mike Sever is the sight operations manager at the Stuart’s Draft plant of the Hershey Company. Welcome to the podcast! How important is this job that Mike Thompson is performing for Hershey?

SEVER: It is a very important job because, as Mike referenced, he’s there the last point of reference before the case closes. So, when it arrives at a Wal-Mart, Target, or when it arrives at a store that you are going to frequent, you’re the next person to see that basically.  So, he has that opportunity to make sure that our products are leaving the factory in the best shape possible. And what we would expect.

Well, Mike, it sounds like you are doing a great job. You’re being promoted; lots of cool things going on.  What are you the most excited about in terms of your future at Hershey?

THOMPSON: My new job I am going to do.

And what is that?

THOMPSON: Peanut-butter refinery.  Basically what I am doing here is cleaning out the chute because the peanut butter likes to get clogged up in the chutes when it goes down.  It does.  And it is a job getting that done!  You put all of the ingredients in there: the fats, the chemicals, etc. to make it just the right consistency you know so that it won’t be too thick or too thin for the next customer down underneath where it goes to.  But, that is a job too!

Mike Sever, is this a more complex, higher-level job?

SEVER: So Mike (Thompson) has certainly had the opportunity and the proven opportunity because of his skills and what he has been able to bring to the Stuart’s Draft factory for Hershey.  He has seen both sides.  He has seen the finished goods leaving the factory floor, going to the store, and now he is at an even more critical step of refining ingredients, and going to the production lines to make into those products that we love, whether it is a Reese’s Pieces or a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.  He’s interacting with ingredients; he’s working on the computer. It is wonderful to have Mike a part of the operations and manufacturing team.

Cindy, you have been responsible for finding candidates and bringing them into the program.  Could you describe some of the kinds of disabilities that these candidates had?

ROBERTS:  We had one fella who worked for a major construction company, had a stroke at the age of 42.  And he had a great job.  Actually, because of OSHA compliance and that type of thing and he was not able to go back to that position. And so, he was one of our folks that was hired.  But you would not know that he had a disability until he spoke.  He was left with a speech impediment.  But because of his background and work history, he will be able to move into other more professional positions at Hershey.  But for him, just having the opportunity to even to be able to go into on the production line and there again make a very good wage was just so important and life changing.  And his wife, there again, to be able to bring pride back to the family again and to be able to go to work and be on the job again was huge for him.  It really was.

Another fellow was born with some deficiencies in his right hand and some weakness. But I tell you what, he could pack boxes all day long and he is like Mr. Hershey.  The staff over there absolutely loves him; they adore him.  And if he misses a day, they ask “Where is he?  We need him here!”  Our folks are cheerleaders, you know.  They are cheerleaders for Hershey!

Another fellow reads on a third grade level.  But doesn’t have a physical disability.  But it doesn’t matter. Because, there again, he is an amazing packer of candy bars.  And he is the fellow that if somebody down the line starts slowing down or struggles, he is the one who will run down and say “Let me help you!  What can I do to help get your production up here?” So there again, just the pride that he has working there.

And then another one of our folks had a learning disability as well.  And then I believe there was one who went in with, maybe, was Autism.

Cindy, always a pleasure to have you on the podcast! Thanks for all you’re doing!

ROBERTS:  Again, an absolute pleasure to be here!

If you have questions for Cindy, you can reach her at cindy.roberts@dars.virginia.gov.

Karen Van Curen, Mike Sever, Mike Thompson from Hershey, thank you for being on this program!  It has been a delight!  Karen, any closing thoughts?

VAN CUREN:  So we are really thrilled to be here and have the opportunity to give you a little information of the program that we have.  And we are so proud of Mike, and so glad to have him here!

Steve, Sharon, thanks for being with us!  You are always a joy to work with and we are delighted to have you as guests on the VR Workforce Studio!

SWEENEY: Ah, it was a sweet opportunity!

Thank you for joining us for another episode of the VR Workforce Studio!  The VR Workforce Studio is produced at Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, soon to be the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center.  That’s taking place July 1st, 2015. We’ll talk more about that in an upcoming episode.  WWRC is a division of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) The VR Workforce Studio is brought to you in podcast by the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center Foundation.  You can find them at wwrcf.org.

If you like what we are doing, please let us know!  You can post a comment on vrworkforcestudio.com.  Just click the green Listen Now tab on the main page, then scroll down the bottom of the page below the transcript, and you’ll see the comments box as well as multiple options to share our featured episode. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  You can always reach me at rick.sizemore@wwrc.virginia.gov.

Until next time, please join the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, WWRC, and our foundation, as we all work together to create hope and a path forward to employment so individuals with disabilities can work and lead more productive lives, enhance our workforce, and move our economy forward.

SWEENEY: Can’t get food for thought? [Laughs]

MAN IN BACKGROUND: [Laughing] Sharon, do you have one?

RUSSO: Ah, I can’t come up with anything! [Sweeney, Man, and Russo Laughing]

 

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