Archive for Employment Services

Meet Joe

We can all learn a thing or two from Joe, who works part-time as a dishwasher at the Steak ‘n Shake on Suemandy Drive in St. Peters. He likes his job and everyone he talks to about his job, knows how much he likes it.

“Joe is a phenomenal worker and always brings positive energy here,” Bethany Klohr, Restaurant Manager at Steak ‘n Shake, said. “Every time he comes in, everyone lifts up and the morale jumps up. Everyone smiles when they’re around him.”

Joe was receiving services from Community Living’s Adult Recreation and Residential programs when he was referred to Community Living’s Employment Services program. In early spring, Pam Westhoff, Vocational Coordinator, began working with Joe through the Building Employment Skills Training (B.E.S.T.) program.

Through the B.E.S.T. program, Community Living’s Employment Services staff works with individuals who require additional assistance in reaching their full employment potential. The purpose of the B.E.S.T. program is to help equip individuals with important job and workplace skills and to develop the confidence needed to succeed in the workforce.

B.E.S.T. is individualized and the area of focus varies from person to person. For Joe, he began volunteering at Steak ‘n Shake in early spring as a way to work on job skills. “There was no reason for him to go test out other places, as he loved it at Steak ‘n Shake,” Pam said. “He wanted to work here, and he had the dishwashing skills down pretty quickly. It was great when we were told Joe was wanted as a coworker.”

Joe began as a Steak ‘n Shake team member on June 22, and his favorite part of working is making money, which he is saving to go shopping for clothes. Of course, he also enjoys having the independence of getting out of his house for a few hours each week. Joe works 5-9 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

Since he started, Pam has noticed Joe has become more social with his coworkers. “There’s a sense of pride,” Pam said. “He’s comfortable in his environment and he knows what he is doing is important.”

Just as Joe likes his job, Bethany likes that Joe is teaching the other team members whether they realize it or not. “I think it’s good for them to see that nothing holds Joe back from anything,” Bethany said. “If you have a goal, you have a goal, and we all try to work hard for it. Also, he shows them that it’s okay to be happy at work, no matter how hard the job is. I think it’s great that everyone can work together. Honestly, none of us look at Joe differently, he’s a team member just like all of us, who just comes in happy and ready to work.”

Strong Bond … Stronger Friendship

We all have that one, maybe two (or more), coworkers that are more than just a coworker. It’s someone you really connect with and usually you’ll end up hanging out together outside of work.

We all meet friends differently, but usually school and work are the two most common places. For Shelley Moore and Karen, a participant in Community Living’s Employment Services program, they met through work so to speak.

Karen works at the Marriott St. Louis Airport and eight years ago, she was referred to Community Living’s Employment Services program to receive a job coach. Shelley was Karen’s job coach for seven years before transferring roles at Community Living and, during this time, the two formed a bond. “She’s a special part of my life,” Karen said.

Three years ago, Karen invited Shelley to her work holiday party. “When I went to the Marriott as Karen’s coach, she would introduce me as her job coach,” Shelley said. “When I attend the holiday party, she introduces me as her friend.”

This year, the invite meant a lot to Shelley. Karen had foot surgery a few months ago and is currently using a walker and unable to work. “Unfortunately, Karen was exhausted,” Shelley said. “By the time she parked, walked into the building, visited with her coworkers, ate and got a picture with Santa, she was ready to leave. It was such a big effort for her to come. I told her she didn’t have to come and she looked at me and said, ‘But I know how much you like it.’ She truly believes this event means just as much to me as it does for her.”

And, yes, Shelley admits she is happy when she gets the invite from Karen. And, Karen says it’s a time she can hang out with her friend.

Even though Shelley is no longer Karen’s job coach, the two continue to talk weekly. “I enjoy catching my friend up on my week,” Karen said. “And, I enjoy her telling me about her week. Isn’t that what friends do?”

Photo: Karen and Shelley take their picture with Santa Clause at Karen’s 2016 work Holiday party.

Emily’s Letter

Hi! I am Emily. I love my family very much – mom and dad, Dawn and Michael; my brother, Matt; my grandma, Audrey; and my dog, Molly, as well as many aunts, uncles and cousins. We do lots of fun things together and we work together. I help with chores at home and I help my mom with her school papers.

I’m proud to be part of Special Olympics. I have been participating for 29 years! Bowling, basketball and bocce ball are my favorite sports. I love the friendships I have made in Special Olympics. We have tons of fun at state competitions. I’m also a volunteer with my church. I love helping out with Sunday school and being a member of the Ladies’ Guild. When I’m with my church group, I help tie quilts, collect food and help raise money for people in need.

I’m a hard worker. I have been employed as an Associate at the Walmart in Wentzville for 18 years! While I was in high school, I was asked to be part of a six-week summer work pilot program. I worked at Walmart doing different jobs. I was able to learn what my strengths were and what I liked to do. When the six weeks were over, Walmart asked me to interview for a part-time job. I did and I got the job!

Before I graduated, I was introduced to Community Living’s Employment Services program and a job coach. If I didn’t have the help of a job coach, my job would be difficult. I, like everyone else, can get frustrated with my job. My job coach helps me communicate with my support managers and also gives me positive ideas to overcome my frustrations.

I continue to learn new things about my job and myself. During my time at Walmart, I have learned how to cope with stress, and sometimes I surprise myself at how well I get through it. My job coach has taught me breathing techniques that help me face any situation that comes my way. I am a caring person and I enjoy helping customers at Walmart. I also like helping my coworkers when they need help. “We are a family,” that’s what our store manager tells us. I take pride in what I do to be part of this family. Even though I have special needs, I focus on doing my best on the jobs I can do.

My job is also important to me because I am making a difference by being a helpful member of my community. I have volunteered my time when our store helps others in need. In August, we stuffed book bags with new school supplies for local children.

It’s great to earn my own paycheck! I have learned how to save money and balance my checkbook. I spend some money on the fun things I like to do. I buy things I need like clothes and new bowling shoes for Special Olympics. Next year, I will attend a convention in New Mexico with my church friends. Right now, I am saving money to do that. I am so excited because I have never been to New Mexico!

In my spare time, I enjoy listening to soundtracks from musicals and playing games on my Kindle. I also like to watch Disney movies, “Full House” reruns and old movies like “The Sting.”

Community Living’s Employment Services program has been a big help with my job. I am glad they are there for me. Thanks for reading my story.



This letter, written by Emily, was done so for Community Living’s 2016 Year-End Appeal. If you would like to make a donation to Community Living’s Employment Services program to provide tools and training to help individuals like Emily who are served by the program, click here.

An Emerald Affair

August (2016) was a month of celebration for Jane Jackson, participant in Community Living’s Employment Services program. She was recognized for 20 years of service at Ameristar Casino, where she is a sanitation steward. Her anniversary date is August 8.

On August 15, she was a guest of honor at Ameristar’s dinner banquet, where employees were honored for years of service, and she attended a luncheon on August 23 where she received an Excellence Award. “It was great (being recognized),” Jane said.

After 20 years, Jane says her job makes her happy. “Jane takes pride in her work,” Chrissy Johnson, Human Resources Business Partner, said. “She lives the values set forth at Ameristar, and adds a smile to so many faces. Jane does excellent work and we are honored to have her be a part of our team.”

Picture: Jane, center, attends a dinner banquet with her cousins, Lisa and Josh, for her 20th anniversary at Ameristar Casino. Update: As of August 2017, Jane continues to work at Ameristar.

Meet Daniel

Making decisions can be hard. But, for Daniel, participant in Community Living, Inc.’s Employment Services program, walking in Community Living’s doors was easy.

He came to Community Living’s Employment Services Department because he was looking to become a more active member of his community and wanting to enrich his life through competitive employment. What he maybe doesn’t realize is how he has touched the lives of the staff and regulars at Brewskeez Bar and Restaurant in O’Fallon where he is a porter.

He works on Wednesday nights, which is Church at the Bar night! Yep, you read that correctly – Brewskeez hosts a non-denominational church service in a judgment-free zone from 7-8 p.m. every Wednesday. “I like the people here,” Daniel said. “I have a fun time talking to the regulars. It’s my favorite part of my job.”

He admits that sounds strange. When Daniel first started, he was shy, which caused some difficulty when he entered the working world. Community Living’s Employment program helped Daniel grow and achieve success in his position; however, so did the regulars. “Daniel is dearly loved by us all,” one of the regulars said. “He brings a sense of joy to our night.”

Daniel knows the regulars care for him, but the staff also cares. “He’s always nice to me and always makes me happy to be here,” Alison McCormack, server, said. “It’s inspiring to see someone with such warmth.” As Jennae Beine, server, pointed out, “He brings a lot of light to Brewskeez. He’s very welcoming to all.”

When Daniel heard what others said about him, he blushed and then added, “I like being here,” Daniel said. “It’s my happy place and I feel excited to be here.” He also enjoys the independence of having a job and the paycheck, which he spends on traveling and food. Recently, he went to New Zealand and Australia with his family where he said the food was delicious.

Now, Daniel is working independently and has tremendous pride in his accomplishments. “My job has helped me realize who I am as a person,” Daniel said. “I’m strong and independent.” He has also commented that through the help from Community Living, he is now able to work on his own and he has the confidence to do so. “I’m no longer afraid of my disability,” Daniel said. “I know I can do my job myself.”

Working Relationship

As with any working relationship, you never know what you are going to get. But when Amanda Williams, assistant general manager of Massa’s in Winghaven, interviewed Megan she knew she was going to be a perfect fit for Massa’s.

“I met her and I liked her,” Amanda said. “The first time I met her, she’s a little spitfire really, I liked her and wanted her to be a part of the Massa’s team.”

Vocational coordinators do a lot of foot work to find jobs for the individuals in Community Living’s Employment Services program. “We do a lot of different job development for the participant,” Pam Westhoff, Vocational Coordinator, said. “Whether it’s going online, contacting previous or current employers or walking in to an establishment. It’s always nice when a new employer, such as Massa’s, comes on board.”

The relationship may never have happened if Megan and Valerie Hill, former Vocational Coordinator for Community Living’s Employment Services, didn’t walk in and see if Massa’s had an opening for Megan. “Massa’s was willing to try something different than their usual hiring process,” Pam said. “They were willing to hire Megan and take a chance.”

That chance worked! On April 14, 2014, Megan worked her first shift, and Massa’s gained an employee that is on time, diligent and knows what needs to get done. “She has surprised me in so many ways,” Amanda said. “Tasks that even myself had thought maybe were too complicated to understand that I didn’t convey to her in the beginning, I’ve asked her and she picked it up right away … I didn’t want to overwhelm her, and it turns out that was just me limiting my resources.”

Customers of Massa’s can see Megan at the hostess stand in the evenings on Mondays and Tuesdays. “The customers like me,” Megan said. “They hug me and tell me I’m doing a great job. I love working here, everything about this place. I just feel welcomed.”

Update (January 5, 2016): Because of the skills Megan has learned from her job at Massa’s, she was hired at the Kelly Ruby State Farm Agency in Eureka. During her Monday and Friday shifts, she writes birthday cards for clients of the insurance agency, scans documents, cleans the office and lends a hand when needed. “She is always busy,” Kelly Ruby said.

Meet Vishal

Good — such a small word with big meaning. Ask Vishal about his visit to Jefferson City or holding his first paycheck, and he can sum it up in one word, “Good.”

Vishal, who has a rare form of cerebral palsy, was invited to Jefferson City to be introduced in Gov. Jay Nixon’s 2013 State of the State Address. He was accompanied by Pam Westhoff, Vocational Coordinator at Community Living, Peg Capo, Executive Director of the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board (DDRB), and Robyn Peyton, DDRB Case Management Director. In his speech, Gov. Nixon mentions how the Partnership for Hope Waiver program provided Vishal with a stair lift, a roll-in shower, a permanent ramp and the physical therapy he needs.

“But as he told me in a letter, his real dream was to get a real job, with a real paycheck,” Gov. Nixon said in his address.

“I felt famous,” Vishal said. “Everyone started clapping and I got a standing ovation. It was good.”

After the address, Vishal and Pam were invited into Gov. Nixon’s office. A picture of Vishal receiving his first paycheck was handed to Gov. Nixon, and in return Gov. Nixon gave Vishal the Governor’s Coin.

“This was very cool for Vishal,” Pam said.

Teresa Howell-Akins, Vishal’s case manager, referred him to Community Living for employment services. Pam arranged a job site at Wehrenberg Mid Rivers Cine 14 Theater, where Vishal started training June 8, 2012. With the assistance of Pam and Kathleen Ditch, former Vocational Instructor at Community Living, Vishal learned to tear tickets and direct movie-goers to the correct theater.

When Vishal was not at the theater he was helping his dad, Harikrishna Patel, at Royal Wines & Spirits in St. Peters.

“I was learning some job skills working with my dad,” Vishal said.

In December 2012, Vishal was offered a part-time job at Wehrenberg. He works Fridays during the day as an usher.

On Jan. 18, 2013, Vishal received his first paycheck! Vishal is the first person in the state to utilize Partnership for Hope funding to get a job.

“It felt good,” Vishal said.

The Partnership for Hope program is a service which utilizes a combination of Federal, State and County dollars to provide access to resources and assistance for Missourians with developmental disabilities. The DDRB is the funding source for St. Charles County. Community Living’s Employment Services program used this funding to help Vishal with job discovery, job preparation, and ultimately employment in the community.

The text version of the State of the State address is posted on the Governor’s website, along with the video.

“Vishal watches the video every day,” Harikrishna said.

As far as spending the paycheck, Vishal plans to save it.

“I want to go out of town, anywhere but here,” he said. “Maybe I will go to New York City? I just want to explore.”

Update (January 5, 2016): Vishal’s hours have increased since the publication of this story. He currently works Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, which gives him about 14 hours per week. Coworkers and movie goers look forward to seeing Vishal at work.

Vishal has been doing his fair share of exploring. For 2016, he has two vacations planned. He will be off during January and February while he takes a family vacation to India. He will be there for his cousin’s wedding. He has another trip planned to New Jersey for another cousin’s wedding. And, he did get his trip to New York City. He said it was good having his own money to spend on his travels.