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.