Singers: VR Workforce Studio
Bobby Carnes: You got to have faith in yourself. People are going to look at you different, but never give up.
Announcer: Four…three..two….one…. VR Workforce Studio, podcasting the sparks that ignite vocational rehabilitation through the inspiring stories of people with disabilities who have gone to work.
Rose Hilderbrand: I have a position at Masco Cabinetry.
Alfred McMillan: I’m a supervisor.
Announcer: As well as the professionals who have helped them.
James Hall: A job, and a career, you got to look at how life changing this is.
Announcer: And the businesses who have filled their talent pipelines with workers that happen to have disabilities.
Debby Hopkins: To help expand registered apprenticeship.
Announcer: These are their stories.
Megan Healy: Because there is such a great story to tell about people with disabilities.
Announcer: Now here’s the host of the VR workforce studio. Rick Sizemore.
Rick Sizemore: Welcome to episode 96 of the VR workforce studio podcast. You know, like many we’re beginning to look ahead at what I’m calling the post pandemic pathway. You know, as people begin returning to the new normal, we’re all really excited about what’s on the horizon, especially so in podcasting and vocational rehabilitation. We’re just four shows away from episode 100, which will air on September 30th this year, which has international podcast day, which of course ushers in October national disability employment awareness month, we have some great guests lined up for that show. This year’s theme, America’s Recovery Powered by Inclusion reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. But today, is a very special show as we expand our VR workforce family, with the addition of a seasoned reporter, a journalist in my humble opinion, one of the world’s greatest photographers. She leads the communications’ Department at the Virginia department for Aging Rehabilitative Services and is joining me on this podcast as an interviewer and cohost, Betsy Civilette. Welcome to the team, Betsy.
Betsy Civilette: Thank you, Rick. I am thrilled to be involved. I have watched this podcast evolve over the years and become a nationally recognized show. It is such a valuable resource for vocational rehabilitation.
Rick Sizemore: Well, we have a jam packed show, but just so you’re properly introduced to our listeners. Give us an overview of some of the highlights of your celebrated career as a communications professional.
Betsy Civilette: Sure. I am a seasoned communications professional. I’ve been in the field now 31 years.
Rick Sizemore: 31 years.
Betsy Civilette: Hard to believe. I started out in advertising doing the fun creative things like writing, radio commercials, and coming up with catchy slogans. But I moved into corporate communications, which is what I currently do, everything from strategic marketing planning to public relations functions.
Rick Sizemore: Yeah. And you have an interview later in the show today. Tell us about that.
Betsy Civilette: I am speaking with Alison Clark, the community engagement manager with the Sheltering Arms Institute in Richmond. And she shares some wonderful stories about their partnership with No Wrong Door Virginia.
Rick Sizemore: Yeah. Well, we’ll look forward to that, but now it’s time for our big inspiration showcase. In our big inspiration showcase today, our guest talks about landing a great job at Mohawk Industries. Mohawk is a global flooring leader with manufacturing operations in 18 different countries with just over 41,000 employees worldwide. But let’s bring it a little closer to home. Bobby Carnes works at Mohawk in Glasgow, Virginia, he found his way there through vocational rehabilitation. Bobby, tell us about your job and how you wound up at Mohawk.
Bobby Carnes: Mohawk is a good company. It’s a company where they make carpet. I’m a creeler, basically it’s important job at Mohawk. I slice yarn, I put yarn in boxes, I put yarn on the racks and the warehouse. I do a lot of things with yarn.
Rick Sizemore: So many people with disabilities, they go through voc rehab and they develop some skills and then they get more training actually on the job. Has Mohawk helped you prepare for that work with additional training on the job?
Bobby Carnes: The job training Mohawk is excellent. Megan, she’s the best trainer in the world. Since I have a learning disability and I learned a little bit slow. They don’t judge you for that, you work on your own pace pretty much. And I eventually got it. And now I’m all good. They do it on your own pace, and that’s what I like about it.
Rick Sizemore: Well, tell us about your training at Wilson Workforce, how did the training here at WWRC help you get ready for this job at Mohawk?
Bobby Carnes: I did warehouse, I did fork lifting training, I did all sorts of things in the warehouse to prepare me for Mohawk.
Rick Sizemore: It sounds like the VOC rehab training and Mohawk together, are a really good combination to give you a career pathway.
Bobby Carnes: I love working there. I’ve made new friends. You know, I like my boss, he’s really cool, Tony, my trainer, Megan. I can work my way up with this company; I actually plan on being a truck driver very soon, forklift, we call it truck.
Rick Sizemore: I think most people do, when you get out in the working world. But you learned to drive a fork truck here at Wilson Workforce?
Bobby Carnes: Yeah, I have a fork lifting certificate.
Rick Sizemore: That is super. Tell us a little more about your disability.
Bobby Carnes: My disability is, basically doing things a little bit slow. I’m just like everybody else, everybody has their own flaws, we’re not all perfect, but I tried to be the best I could be and I don’t let nobody tell me I can’t do something cause I make it happen.
Rick Sizemore: Did you get any help at Wilson with your learning disability?
Bobby Carnes: I got tests to see what type of learning disability I had. So I didn’t really know what I have or had, because before they said I had ADHD, but I don’t have ADHD. It’s just something called a language disorder where I don’t really understand human language that well.
Rick Sizemore: It seems like you’ve worked your way through that and into a great job.
Bobby Carnes: I passed it all, I bypassed it. I don’t really look at it like I have a learning disability. I don’t really compare myself with other people just because I have a learning disability.
Rick Sizemore: Right. So how did vocational rehabilitation really help get you ready to be financially on your own?
Bobby Carnes: It was Trina, she helped me learn how to manage money, about my social security when I used to be on it, saving my money and managing my money a little bit better.
Rick Sizemore: A lot of people have to really kind of work through the system of coming off of social security when they go to work and learn how to manage their money. How’s social security working out in your particular situation?
Bobby Carnes: I’m working off of it, really good money. So I have enough for what I need to pay bills and stuff like that.
Rick Sizemore: Bobby, you mentioned Trina Gray, who’s a work incentive specialist advocate and a student financial representative at Wilson Workforce. She had this to say about working with you,
Trina Gray: Bobby, when I first met him, was apprehensive into the types of services that we were providing him with and very guarded, especially discussing anything to do with money, which is a very personal thing. So that, to me, is very understandable. But as we further developed our relationship and talked about financial independence, he was more open to it. And then I think too, him trusting himself in the process and seeing his abilities and being able to develop in his work habits, and then knowing that he was going to have an income at some point, that helped with his situation. It’s explaining to people, you have taxes, you have to pay into the system and there are benefits to that and you are becoming a tax paying citizen and explaining that process and what you gain from that as far as thinking further ahead in savings and planning for your future and your retirement. So those are the things that financial literacy helps us students with.
Rick Sizemore: You’ve gotten job training, financial coaching, and now the payoff of a new car. What does that feel like?
Bobby Carnes: Well, I started working at Mohawk. That’s when I got my Honda Tiburon, it’s a sports car, and I got a loan for it, I got a co-signer and I pay payments on the car now. So I have a good job to have enough money to do that.
Rick Sizemore: What’s your advice to employers about hiring people with disabilities?
Bobby Carnes: People with learning disabilities, just try as hard as other people do. And even in school, in education, they try just as hard as everyone else. And this needs to be heard. Like, I think that employers should hire people with disabilities because they’re just like everyone else.
Rick Sizemore: Well, Bobby, you’re a real success story. Let’s finish out with any final thoughts and reflections you have for people with disabilities and those who work with them to help them get a job.
Bobby Carnes: See, you got to have faith in your students in order for the students to get a job and to keep a job. If you don’t have faith in other people, then there’s no point. You got to have faith in yourself, people are going to look at you different, but never give up. If I can do something, or you’re shocked that I can do it, I make things happen. Yeah, I’m going to get it done. That’s what I did. I got it done. And I’m here today.
Rick Sizemore: Bobby Carnes is a creeler for Mohawk Industries at the plant in Glasgow, Virginia. Bobby, thanks for being on our podcast today.
Bobby Carnes: Alight thanks.
Rick Sizemore: YouTube sensation. Ms. Duggan has a new ebook on adult daily living skills. Here’s Ms. Duggan.
Ms. Duggan: Hey guys, Ms. Duggan here. And I wanted to tell you about my new ebook Adult Daily Living Skills, What’s the Big Deal. It has six informative write-ups on ADL’s, lesson plans, and activities for each ADL, two extra activities, and a helpful glossary. I also have a free assessable version with proof of purchase, and don’t forget to use the $5 off coupon code, Ms. Duggan.
Rick Sizemore: For information on Ms. Duggan or the link to purchase the new ebook, check the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com. Here’s the DARS communications manager and co-host of the VR Workforce Studio, Betsy Civilette.
Betsy Civilette: Today we are thrilled to have Alison Clarke on the podcast. Alison is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist. In 2020, she started a new position as the community engagement manager at the Sheltering Arms Institute, a new 114 bed inpatient physical rehabilitation hospital. Welcome to the podcast Alison.
Alison Clarke: Thank you, it’s great to be here.
Betsy Civilette: Now you say your career focus has been developing community-based recreation and wellness services, addressing quality of life for individuals recovering from injury or illness. So could you tell us a little more about your chosen field and how it has led to your latest position at the Sheltering Arms Institute?
Alison Clarke: Yes. I am a recreation therapist by training and every recreational therapist has the passion of quality of life for our patients that we serve. And I have a long history of career with Sheltering Arms. I’ve worked there for over 30 years and really took an interest in as a recreation therapist and what patients were doing after discharge from their rehab program. And we started a pilot program to really look at what opportunities we can provide folks post discharge. And we had several folks come out to some of our bowling clinics and adapted golf programs. And we really realized that there was a disconnect sometimes with what the patients were doing after discharge. So we really wanted to focus on that quality of life piece for our patients and our community. And then we were able to create a community recreation program at Sheltering Arms. And over the years, I really worked to develop recreation, wellness, and fitness programs to meet needs for people with disabilities in the community.
Alison Clarke: And fortunately when the SAI Institute opened and we decided that the mission and the vision related to reinventing rehabilitation for life beyond limits, we started talking about the need for community connections earlier in the patient’s recovery, and a community engagement management position opened up. And so I transferred my responsibilities to SAI and I’m now looking at how we can make long-term connections with patients. We have a strategy of how we stay connected with them after discharge, as well as making community connections for them while they’re in the inpatient stay, which is a very different approach in an inpatient rehabilitation facility.
Betsy Civilette: Great. Could you tell us a little bit more background on Sheltering Arms and how the Sheltering Arms Institute came about?
Alison Clarke: Sure. Sheltering Arms has a great legacy, a long legacy, in Richmond community. So it opened in 1889 and it was an acute care hospital for the Richmond area. And in 1981 Sheltering Arms focused on physical rehabilitation. And so we opened strictly an inpatient rehabilitation hospital. And over the years, we’ve built a continuum of care that are focused on supporting our patients after discharge from inpatient. So that full continuum of care I was talking about without patient services, recreation, wellness, and fitness programs.
Betsy Civilette: So your role at Sheltering Arms Institute is community engagement. It sounds like you have worked with a number of partnering organizations to help develop collaborative programs to improve the health of patients in the community at large. One of these collaborative programs is No Wrong Door, Virginia, overseen by the Virginia department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Tell us how Sheltering Arms discovered the No Wrong Door system, how this relationship has developed and what your initial experience was.
Alison Clarke: Yeah. So I have heard about No Wrong Door over the years, just being in the recreation and wellness field. And when we were starting the Sheltering Arms Institute, community engagement position, I knew that we needed some sort of system that is going to connect our, our patients and our families to community agencies quickly. So I reached out to Thelma Watson and asked her a little bit about the No Wrong Door system, wondering if it would be appropriate for us to use. And a lot of our community partners are in No Wrong Door, but I knew that some of them were not. And we really needed to figure out who those community partners are, that we knew were going to be a strong impact for our patients. And so I had a great team of people from No Wrong Door that really worked with me to reach out to these community partners.
Alison Clarke: And basically we decided to all onboard in no wrong door together, which was fantastic because we were able to talk about the challenges that we had with a lot of our partners saying, we don’t see some of these patients for five years after their initial brain injury and that’s not great rehab and that’s not a great community connection. So they were really excited to be able to connect sooner with our patients. Hopefully being able to avoid a lot of challenges that happen when you wait for five years to call for help. We were able to onboard together. We were, we were able to train all at the same time. We had some specific expectations for documentation and No Wrong Door that would help me track outcomes and successes of this connection. So the team at no wrong door was really great in helping us to coordinate all of that.
Alison Clarke: We chose initially for the United Spinal Association, Community Brain Injury Services of Virginia, Brain Injury Association in Virginia, and Sportable as our first four onboarding partners. Those agencies all really impact the populations that we’re seeing in SAI. So we started off with that, but as we’ve been moving forward, I’m continuing to make referrals to senior connections and other agencies and resources that are in the no wrong door system, which is a great one-stop shop for making connections. And I think the best part of it has been that we are getting consent from the patient to use the system, which allows the responsibility to be put on the agency versus the patients whose family are overwhelmed. And they know that they’re getting a call, we’re making that connection sooner, versus relying on them to make the contact with the agency. So that’s been really helpful to our folks.
Betsy Civilette: That sounds like a wonderful collaboration. And I know some of those partners as well. Are they fully onboarded too, you mentioned Sportable, a few other…
Alison Clarke: Yes, Sportable, United Spinal Community Brain Injury Services. So it’s, it’s a great way for us to send the referral in. And then we make some notation of information about the patient. And the great thing has been, we have offered virtual and on-site visits with these partners. So we initially started with virtual. Obviously we have some fully vaccinated partners that are now coming in, but the long-term goal is to have all of our community partners have office hours at the Institute. So there’s designated times during the week that they’re coming and they’re able to meet with patients and families while they’re in the rehabilitation process. So sometimes that’s just an introduction and sometimes that’s starting to open their intake and referral process for the agency. So they’re get the ball rolling before they leave. I think that the challenging thing is trying to meet the patient at the right time in recovery for the resource.
Alison Clarke: So we have felt that some, some of those introductions are just the start and we also do an extensive follow-up with our patients. So we are bringing folks back to what we call our community transition events every quarter. And our goal is to have our community partners available in the room, the patients and the families will receive some additional education, clinical education, on different topics that are relevant post discharge. And then the partners are in the room again for the opportunity for them to reconnect. And I think that’s the most important thing is how you make that connection at the right time and the recovery for the patient.
Betsy Civilette: Well, it sounds like No Wrong Door has benefited your patients by increasing their ability to access community-based resources before being discharged. Could you give us an example of how patients have connected with No Wrong Door resources while still at the Institute? You mentioned, for example, brain injury patients.
Alison Clarke: Yes. Yes. We have had a couple of recent scenarios where we have a patient that’s returning to home, their home community, and they’re going to have long-term case management needs regarding some of the deficits they have from their brain injury or support that the family is going to need. So we have had the case manager from community brain injury services come in and meet the patient and family. She’s worked on applying for SNAP benefits for some of our patients, she started the disability application for some of our patients, she’s talked about the support groups and has been able to get some of our patients and families started in that earlier. We had a family member, he was an only child of a mom who had a recent brain injury, and we introduced him to the caregiver support group, which he joined while he was at the Institute while his mom was still at the Institute.
Alison Clarke: So he had that official introduction and was really excited about knowing that he’s going to have that support when he leaves. We’ve seen a lot of great success with our long term brain injury case management services that are needed. We also have a great story about a spinal cord injury patient who was interested in Sportable and Sportable was able to bring a hand cycling demo piece of equipment into the Institute. And they had a nice conversation. And after discharge, he has now joined the cycling program at Sportable and he’s playing wheelchair basketball. So both of those things are something that is very unusual for a patient to get engaged in a community programs like that three months after their injury. And I think it’s a good a Testament to us, what we’re trying to do at the Institute to really make those connections sooner. Let patients and families feel hope and encouragement, and know that they’re not alone when they leave the Institute, that there’s a network of great community services that are willing to help them and support them and continue with their quality of life.
Betsy Civilette: No Wrong Door offers a new online feature called Direct Connect, does Sheltering Arms Institute have any plans for future use of this feature for your patients?
Alison Clarke: We’re getting ready to do an in-service with them in the near future. Right now, we’re really focusing on seeing what other partners we want to continue to develop relationships with that are No Wrong Door. We have some connections with some of the ramp agencies and Virginia Relay that we’re looking at having them come in to do some inservices to our staff. I think the unique thing has been, we’ve been able to connect our patients through our electronic health record to make referrals. So part of this is really educating our clinicians on what resources are most appropriate for patients and at the Institute, we really have a transdisciplinary vision where it’s everyone’s job to make connections to community engagement. So if a patient is with physical therapy and they mentioned something about wanting to play basketball, that physical therapist is able to suggest that referral for us.
Alison Clarke: So a big piece that we’re continuing to do is educating our clinicians on all of the services that are available. I think we believe that it is everyone’s responsibility to think about not only their inpatient care experience or their outpatient care experience, but how are these folks going to be serviced long-term. Quality of life is critical and you can do all the rehab you want and if you go home and aren’t active and engaged and feel supported, you can lose all your functions. So I think as a team, we all really are committed to the long-term health and recovery of our patients.
Betsy Civilette: Well, the work that you do seems very fitting with No Wrong Doors tag line of access options and answers.
Alison Clarke: No Wrong Door was really an answer to a lot of questions and concerns that I had when we started the community engagement position. It’s like, how do I make these referrals? How do I know that the agency has connected with the patients? Typically, we’d been given a patient’s brochures about the brain injury association and said, “This is the number, give them a call” and we know that that wasn’t working. So being able to look back in the patient’s profile and see what the brain injury association is doing, or what CBIS is doing with the patient is really helping us to say that this is a process that’s successful. And I continue to hope and know that things will continue to improve and make additional connections for our patients.
Betsy Civilette: Well, thank you. You’ve shared some wonderful information about Sheltering Arms Institute and the great work you’re doing. So thank you so much for being on our podcast today.
Alison Clarke: Thank you for having me, I appreciate the time.
Rick Sizemore: Alison Clarke is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist and the community engagement manager at Sheltering Arms Institute in Richmond, Virginia. You can find more information about Sheltering Arms and Alison’s contact information in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com. Betsy Civilette is the communications manager at the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative services. It’s Alzheimer and brain awareness month. Here’s George Worthington, the dementia services coordinator for the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative services.
George Worthington: I support the Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders commission, which is the advisory body to the governor and the general assembly. And I work hard to help the commission and our department and other agencies around the state implement the Dementia State Plan, which is aimed at helping support Virginians living with dementia and their caregivers to live their best possible lives.
Rick Sizemore: For more information, visit vda.virginia.gov. Well it’s time for our National Clearinghouse update with the always entertaining and informative Cherie Takemoto, welcome to the podcast, Cherie.
Cherie Takemoto: Thanks. And it was great listening to the story about Bobby. I picture him in his new car, so proud. Yes. And so many people are afraid to work because they’re afraid of losing benefits, but he has no fear. And many people who are fearful should ask their VR counselor for help from a work incentive specialist.
Rick Sizemore: And I bet you have plenty of resources for all the VR community in that area, don’t you?
Cherie Takemoto: Yes, I do. This month, I have resources from the NCRTM on work incentives so that folks can learn about what they are and how it’s most important to work and not be so poor. Speaking of poor, a lot of folks got stimulus payments from the COVID relief and need a place to put that money or else they’re going to lose those benefits. So I also have a slew of resources on financial literacy.
Rick Sizemore: Cherie Takemoto directs the Rehabilitation Services Administration’s National Clearinghouse for Rehabilitation Training Materials. We’ve included links to information from the report, the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com. Thank you, Cherie.
Cherie Takemoto: Thank you.
Rick Sizemore: Here’s Lynn Harris, director of the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation.
Lynn Harris: The Foundation is pleased to bring you these exciting stories of how vocational rehabilitation is changing people’s lives. Your support helps students gain the skills and credentials they need to be successful in business and industry. We thank all of our partners in podcasting who made this episode possible. The Council of State, Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation, CVS Health, Dominion Energy, Daikin Applied, Hollister Inc, and United bank. You can find out more about becoming a sponsor at WWRCF.org or find our contact information in the show notes at vrworkforcestudio.com.
Rick Sizemore: You can always find another exciting episode as we podcast the sparks that ignite vocational rehabilitation, here at the VR Workforce Studio. Until next time, I’m Rick Sizemore.
Announcer: The VR Workforce Studio podcast is owned and operated by the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation. The Foundation publishes and distributes the VR Workforce Studio and manages all sponsor arrangements. Audio content for the podcast is provided to the Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center Foundation by the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services, in exchange for promotional considerations.