VR3: Making a Difference
Q1, Quality One, Quality happens one person at a time
VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results December 2014

Legacy of leadership

SCVRD agency board chairman Derle Lowder, Sr. passed away on November 2, 2014.

Chairman Lowder brought a client’s perspective to the board. An 80 foot fall from a grain elevator in 1957 resulted in paraplegia. With VR assistance, he finished college and went on to found his own successful accounting firm, which he ran for more than 40 years.

Before joining the board, he volunteered at the Sumter Area Office and became a member of the Sumter Work Training Center advisory board, where he helped develop business partnerships that resulted in contract work for the center and employment opportunities for VR clients.

A US Navy veteran, Mr. Lowder served in Korea and Vietnam.

In addition, Mr. Lowder served on the Sumter County Commission on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, as chairman of the Sumter Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, and led an initiative to improve parking for people with disabilities in downtown Sumter.

In 1997, Mr. Lowder joined SCVRD’s agency board and became chairman in 2001. Throughout his tenure on the board, he was an advocate for VR clients and a strong supporter of VR employees and their interests. He took pride in recognizing employees, going out of his way to engage with staff when he visited area offices and work training centers.

SCVRD named the Sumter Area Office after Chairman Lowder on April 26, 2006, which was named “Derle A. Lowder, Sr. Day.” He also received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, presented by Rep. Murrell Smith on behalf of Governor Mark Sanford. Sen. Phil Leventis, D- Sumter and chairman of the Sumter County Legislative Delegation, told him, “You represent a lifetime of service, and a lifetime of accomplishment, and for that we thank you a great deal.”

Members of the Sumter County Legislative Delegation congratulate Mr. Lowder on receiving the Order of the Palmetto in 2006. (l to r) Lowder, Rep. Murrell Smith, Rep. David Weeks, Sen. Phil Leventis.

Through his direct, no-nonsense leadership, Chairman Lowder worked to increase awareness of SCVRD and its mission with legislators, the governor, and city and county officials. “We need to ring our own bell. Let them see what we do,” he stated.

His guidance also helped the agency weather state budget cuts, and he credited good management and strong leadership with giving the agency long-term stability and the ability to “do more with less and do it better.”

“Chairman Lowder’s unwavering support and genuine passion for service were always evident,” says SCVRD Commissioner Barbara Hollis. “He was there for the agency, and for me personally, during some challenging times. He was so proud of our mission and our staff and often said, ‘VR staff aren’t hired, they are selected.’ I will miss him and will forever be grateful for the opportunities and support he provided.”

He is survived by his second wife, Claire, a daughter, two sons, and seven grandchildren.

SCVRA annual meeting

Client Achievement Award Recognition

Patrick McGregor, second from left, receives the 2014 Client Achievement Award from (l to r) Dr. Roxzanne Breland, Vice Chair, SC State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation; Barbara Hollis, SCVRD Commissioner; and Kelly Sieling, Charleston Area Supervisor.

“Everything I learned at Voc Rehab, at the training center and the ITTC (Information Technology Training Center) had a single common thread,” states Patrick McGregor, “and that was: put you back to work.”

Patrick, a former SCVRD client, is quiet, soft spoken and humble. He’s also full of energy and determination.

Patrick was born with a heart defect, Tetralogy of Fallot, which results in low oxygenation of the blood, and later developed Chiari Malformation. Chiari Malformation is a swelling of the portion of the brain that controls balance. The skull presses on the brain and forces it downward, putting pressure on the brain stem and spinal cord. As a result of both conditions, he had neck pain, balance problems, muscle weakness, numbness in his extremities, and, as he calls them, “ice cream headaches.”

As the symptoms became more pronounced, Patrick found it increasingly difficult to continue working as a car salesman and finance manager.

“My head was hurting so bad,” he recalls, “and I could not control my balance.”

Over the course of five years, with the support of his family and former employer, Patrick had a series of surgeries to address the Chiari Malformation and other issues that were manifesting. It was during this time that he learned about Vocational Rehabilitation.

“Patrick was referred to VR by an occupational speech therapist at East Cooper Hospital,” explains Karen Miller, Patrick’s counselor.

“Karen and I talked about my goals, where did I want to be,” says Patrick. “She had the whole picture in mind, including my family’s well being.”

Together they decided that he could benefit from the Comprehensive Programs at SCVRD’s Evaluation Center in West Columbia. Patrick embraced all that the Evaluation Center had to offer during the four weeks he was there, says Miller. “Just like he embraces life in general.”

During that time Patrick learned about the Information Technology Training Center (ITTC) and expressed interest in attending the 11-month program. He earned a silver WorkKeys certificate at the Evaluation Center, and the following January he started the ITTC program, where he learned to be a PC repair technician and help desk technician.

Dr. Roxzanne Breland (far left) and Commissioner Barbara Hollis recognize VR staff who worked with Patrick. (l to r) Gloria Plotnik, Client Services Supervisor; Matthew Daugherty, Resource Specialist; Karen Miller, Counselor; Shannon Reed, Area Client Services Manager; Cathy Clower, Business Development Specialist; Tom Jackman, Rehabilitation Technology Supervisor; and Kelly Sieling, Charleston Area Supervisor.

Staff members consistently comment on his positive attitude and hard work.

“His desire. That’s what stands out about Patrick,” says Bob Umbarger, former instructor at the ITTC. “He really wanted to go to work.”

During this time, Patrick worked with Rehabilitation Technology engineers and received accommodations that included writing aids, a trackball and an anti-fatigue mat. He also utilized the Muscular Development Center, where he worked on improving his strength and balance.

As his time at the ITTC came to an end, Patrick had the opportunity, through the Skilled Workforce Apprentice Training program, to work as a camera operator for the Mount Pleasant Department of Motor Vehicles.

“I showed them what I could do and we went from there,” says Patrick.

And his next step was to apply for a full-time position in the same office as a Customer Service Representative.

“Patrick is a person that is eager to learn,” says Michelle Gainey, Manager at the Mount Pleasant DMV. “He loves helping people.”

Patrick greets everyone who comes to the DMV, looking over their paperwork, making sure they have what they need, and determines what they need to do next.

“You have to look the customer in the eye,” says Patrick. “You have to let them know that you care about your job. And that you’re concerned about their well being in terms of getting them what they need.”

“He has a very strong work ethic,” enthuses Gainey. “He’s a person I can count on.”

Patrick credits the dedication and support of VR staff members with helping him to get to where his is today, from his counselor to all of the people behind the scenes who “touched my life and my family’s life.”

Watch the 2014 Client Achievement Award video to learn more about Patrick.

Commissioner’s Medal of Excellence Honoree

Mark Spires, Building/Grounds Manager, receives the Medal of Excellence from Commissioner Barbara Hollis.

Spires was recognized for his dedication; the “quiet, unassuming, and calm way” he handles challenging situations, regardless of whether they are professional or personal; and his commitment to making sure the job—no matter how big or small—is done the right way.

“He has, for his entire career, demonstrated a combination of exceptional competency and caring for others that is rarely matched,” says Hollis. “He settles for nothing but quality in his work.”

Business Partnership Award Recognition

The following businesses were each honored at this year’s SC Vocational Rehabilitation Association (SCVRA) Annual Meeting with a Business Partnership Award. Each has been instrumental in providing training and employment opportunities for VR clients.

Central Textiles, Central

Sandy Owens, Human Resource Director for Central Textiles.

Central Textiles has been a valued partner of the Oconee/Pickens Area office for more than four years. Sandy Owens, HR director for Central Textiles serves as a member of the Training Center’s Advisory Board. Owens also understands the value that VR clients bring to the table.

Over the past five years, Central Textiles has hired 24 VR clients and currently has six individuals in training through the Skilled Workforce Apprentice Training (SWAT) program.

Owens appreciates finding excellent candidates that have a good attitude and a strong work ethic and sees the partnership as a win-win for both Central Textiles and the clients hired through VR.

Central Textiles is an integrated textile producer that has been in operation in Central, SC since 1984 when the current owners purchased an old, existing textile mill and modernized it into a state of the art manufacturing facility to compete in today’s global marketplace.

United Technologies Corporation Aerospace Systems, Bamberg

United Technologies Corporation (UTC) Aerospace Systems has been a valued partner of the Orangeburg Area Office for more than five years. Clients have received training through a variety of contracts provided by UTC.

Training opportunities currently include multifaceted disassembly of over 20,000 parts per month, which provide three teams comprised of a total of nine clients with valuable training in team building and real manufacturing skills.

Recognizing that individuals with disabilities have valuable skills to offer, UTC has recently hired two clients through the Skilled Workforce Apprentice Training (SWAT) program. A member of the Business Partnership Network, UTC is an advocate for the employment of people with disabilities.

UTC Aerospace Systems is one of the world’s largest suppliers of technologically advanced aerospace and defense products. They design, manufacture, and service systems and components for commercial, regional, business and military aircraft.

Verizon Wireless, Charleston

Verizon Wireless is an outstanding partner with the Charleston Area Office. Their HR staff has provided several job preparedness workshops to help VR clients develop valuable employment skills and they have participated in numerous job fairs held at the Charleston office. During the past year they have hired five VR clients.

Each year Verizon participates in Disability Mentoring Day events that give transition students exposure to a variety of career options and workplace environments. They have also sponsored events that help raise scholarship money for students with disabilities.

The importance of an all inclusive workforce is encouraged from the corporate level throughout the organization. Verizon Wireless is an active member of the Business Partnership Network and frequently acts as an advocate for hiring individuals with disabilities.

The Verizon Wireless call center opened in Charleston ten years ago and has provided career opportunities for more than 1100 individuals in the Lowcountry, including more than 150 people with disabilities.

(left to right) Kevin Owens, Talent Acquisition, Verizon; Nazareth Ridley, Charleston Contact Center Director, Verizon; Kelly Sieling, Charleston Area Supervisor; Joseph Thomas, SCVRD Agency Board member; Jon McFadden, Talent Acquisition, Verizon.

Legislative Award Recipient: Senator Tim Scott

U.S. Senator Tim Scott was presented the SCVRA Legislative Award.

Senator Scott is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP). This committee, and later the full Senate and House, passed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which includes the Rehabilitation Act, the federal law for vocational rehabilitation.

This bill, years in the making, took an immense amount of bipartisan work. As work on the bill proceeded, Senator Scott reached out to VR, because although this law greatly impacts America’s workforce in general, it also focuses on people with disabilities, and he knew it would have significant impact on the vocational rehabilitation program.

Senator Scott met with VR staff and voiced his support of vocational rehabilitation and SCVRD’s role in opening doors for new career opportunities for those we serve.

When WIOA passed, it focused on enhancing training and employment opportunities, school-to-work transition, and business partnerships—all current points of emphasis for SCVRD.

In accepting the SCVRD award the North Charleston native praised SCVRD staff’s efforts. “I am proud of your efforts to help people. We need people like you so the greatness and potential of each person can be realized.”

(l to r) Joseph Thomas, SCVRD Agency Board member; Sen. Tim Scott; Dr. Roxzanne Breland, Vice Chair, SC State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation; Barbara Hollis, SCVRD Commissioner.

Division Award Winners

Anne Iriel (right), Area Development Director, receives the Administrator of the Year award from the SCVRA Administrators Association from Gene Wilson, SCVRAA President.

Michael Laney (left), was recognized by his peers with the Direct Client Service Division award. Laney, Greenville Work Training Center Manager, receives the award from Kerry Reece.

Rhonda Sandifer (right), Fiscal Specialist, accepts the Technical Services Association Award from Karen Adkins, TSA President.

George Pullie (left), Marlboro Area Supervisor, accepts the Professional Staff Association Award from Teresa Moses, PSA President.

Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award Honorees

Heather Ulmer, of Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School (BEHS), received the Richard Kuffel Award of Excellence for her “Outstanding Achievement in Provision of Transition Services for Students with Disabilities.”

Ulmer is the School-to-Work and High Schools that Work Coordinator and she seeks out employers to provide work and training opportunities for students. As a result of establishing a strong reputation with employers, they often seek her recommendations when they are searching for part-time or full-time student workers.

A true advocate for her students, Ulmer coordinates job shadowing experiences, advises students and parents on future career plans and training/post-secondary opportunities, and coordinates tours of local industries. Additionally, she assists students with completing college applications and helping them in their transition to post-secondary education.

Ulmer is a outstanding example of the positive impact that effective transition services can have on the lives of students.

(l to r) Steven Alexander, Orangeburg Transition Counselor; Heather Ulmer, HSTW/STW Coordinator, Bamberg-Ehrhardt High School; Margaret Alewine, SCVRD Director of Planning.

Lucerne Iseman was recognized for her “Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Transition Services for Students with Disabilities.”

Iseman’s diverse range of experience at SCVRD includes serving as a a Vocational Evaluator, Facility Supervisor, VR mental health counselor, Program Consultant for Vocational Evaluation, Administrator of the Center for Comprehensive Services, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, and Assistant Commissioner.

In 2006 she saw a great opportunity to develop and grow a High School/High Tech (HSHT) program in SC. While working with school partners, VR local area staff, and community partners and employers to make the HSHT program a reality, she also helped create much of the current framework that supports SCVRD’s transition programs.

Iseman’s vigilance to the programmatic principles of HSHT, advancement of the Guideposts for Success model of service delivery, and unwavering passion and dedication for helping youth continue to advance SCVRD’s transition programs.

Lucerne Iseman (left), Program Manager; Margaret Alewine, SCVRD Director of Planning.

Around the state

Vietnamese Ministry tours VR

Anne Iriel (left), SCVRD Area Development Director, explains Muscular Development Center services to a delegation of 20 officials from Vietnam’s national agency over labor and vocational policies and services.

The delegation toured the VR West Columbia campus and Lexington Work Training Center to learn about the vocational rehabilitation program and U.S. policies on employment of people with disabilities. The visit was coordinated by the University of South Carolina’s College of Social Work, which was hosting the delegation for several days for a study on American federal, state and local policies and programs in vocational training in hope that they can apply some of the concepts to programs in Vietnam.

Oconee-Pickens Open House

Thirty-two students, representing Oconee and Pickens Counties, participated in job shadows during Disability Mentoring Day on October 29.

They explored careers in recreation, medicine, photography, auto mechanics, auto painting and body repair, veterinary practice, child care, masonry, retail sales, massage therapy, public service, and computer technology.

Afterwards, the students took part in the Oconee-Pickens Open House program, which included touring the Work Training Center and learning about the various contract work completed in the center. They also learned from to motivational speaker Jeff Covington, Oconee Sheriff’s Deputy, as he shared his story of recovery after losing his leg due to a motorcycle accident.

The students also witnessed the support of local elected officials as they recognized October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

VR clients give new life to old banners in Aiken

The Aiken Work Training Center recently partnered with the Aiken Women’s Club for the Seasons of Character Banner Project.

The project is a fund-raiser by the Aiken Women’s Club. VR clients take banners that previously hung throughout downtown Aiken and turn them into pillows. Each pillow has a tag attached that says “The South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department believes that quality happens one person at a time and provides an array of individualized services to people with disabilities to assist them in achieving their career goals and improving their independence and quality of life. At SCVRD we value partnership with business, industry and community that provide employment and work training opportunities for VR clients. To learn more, visit scvrd.net.”

View photos and additional information about the event on the Aiken Standard website.

SERID success in Charlotte

The 2014 SouthEastern Regional Institute on Deafness (SERID) conference, held in Charlotte, North Carolina, was a huge success for SCVRD. VR employees took home three out of six awards presented at the conference.

(front l to r) Outstanding Employer of the Year: DISH Network, a business relationship built by MeLinda Osburn, SCVRD Employment Coach; Outstanding Deaf Person of the Year: Clara Gantes (SCVRD Job Coach); Outstanding Interpreter of the Year: Josie McDaniel-Burkett (SCVRD Interpreter Vendor); (back) Shonna Magee, Client Services Specialist.

South Carolina will host the 2015 SERID at Marriott Hotel in Myrtle Beach October 24-28, 2015. The theme for the conference is “Making Waves for Success.”

​SERID provides educational and professional development for individuals who work with consumers who are deaf, hard of hearing, deaf-blind and/or late-deafened. The conference promotes collaboration between service providers and communities serving this population.

Bounce Back day in Camden

The Camden office held a day-long “Bounce Back” event on November 5 designed to help clients facing challenges for employment complicated by their disability and criminal background.

Eddie Moore, this year’s recipient of the Bounce Back Client Achievement Award for the Camden office, was recognized for his efforts in overcoming personal barriers to employment. Moore highlighted the need to be grounded in one’s effort to succeed.

Throughout the day, participants received information on topics from mass transit services to working with probation officers.

At the end of the day, participants and staff were energized and looking forward to the next chapter in the Bounce Back story.

Q Quotes

Quality is everyone’s responsibility and we never have to stop getting better.

—W.E. Deming, engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, manufacturing consultant

Did you know...

...that the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities Journalism Contest scholarship became part of state law nearly 55 years ago?

The four-year scholarship was established during Governor Fritz Hollings’ administration in 1960. Information about the 2015 contest for South Carolina high school juniors and seniors is now available on SCVRD’s website at journalism.scvrd.net.


Rock Hill
December 11, 5:30-7pm - Job Retention Services Open House.
  For more information, call 803-327-7106

Happy Holidays!

Preparing and assisting eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to achieve and maintain competitive employment

VR3 is published by the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (SCVRD), 1410 Boston Avenue, West Columbia, SC 29171.
The Public Information Office provides all news and information. News material may be reproduced with credit to VR3. In accordance with federal and state laws, SCVRD does not discriminate against any race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability in employment or in provision of services.