VR3: Making a Difference
VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results July 2015

Stepping up in emergencies

Governor Nikki Haley, after a recent hurricane preparedness exercise, recognized VR as one of the agencies which helps provide manpower and resources in times of emergency in South Carolina.

Although the South Carolina Emergency Management Division (SCEMD) leads the state emergency management program, and the Departments of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), Social Services (DSS), and Mental Health (DMH) are the lead agencies in disaster and emergency preparedness, they do not have enough resources to meet all of the state’s needs in an emergency. Therefore, many other agencies have been named as support agencies.

Neil Lown, VR Safety and Risk Management Coordinator.

Earlier this year, representatives from SCEMD were contacting agencies because the governor had noticed that many were not fulfilling this support role.

“I was part of a conference call with them,” recalls Neil Lown, VR Safety and Risk Management Coordinator. “They wanted to see if we had anyone willing to do this. I said, ‘We already have 64 people trained.’”

The group from SCEMD didn’t expect that response. They were able to go back to the governor and say that VR plus two other agencies had come forth with enough people to meet the statewide resource requirements.

Lown explains that “in 2004, when we found out there was an obligation under a specific governor’s executive order, we began recruiting people and getting them trained.”

In an emergency, VR can provide people who serve as crisis counselors in shelters.

Safety Reminders

  • Know your office’s safety coordinator
  • Know the difference between your office’s fire and tornado alarm sounds
  • Keep walkways clear
  • Beware of slip, trip and fall hazards
  • Wear safety goggles if required
  • Do not attempt to clean chemical or blood spills unless trained
  • SC Emergency Management Division (emergency and disaster preparedness): scemd.org
  • State Government Office Closings: scemd.org/closings

“A lot of times a little bit of psychological first aid on site is all people need,” says Lown. “That’s our main function.”

VR can also provide accessible vans and drivers for transportation if needed. Additionally, food, water and vaccines from strategic national stockpile sites may be brought to certain work training centers around the state for distribution to the public.

“I’ve really been overwhelmed by the quality of the people we get,” says Lown. “They are all volunteers. It’s something they really want to do. They do this in addition to their normal job. I’ve gone around to thank each one of them and their typical response is, ‘In my spare time I try to help people and this is just another way to do that.’”

Lown, who recently retired, spent the last eleven years helping to make VR safer for staff and clients. By adding safety coordinators and doing safety assessments in each office and work training center the number of employee and client injuries decreased dramatically over the years.

“I’ve seen a culture of safety develop over the years,” he says. “People follow the safety rules and policy because they know it’s the right thing. We have an amazing group of people.”

Around the state

Conway Custodial Program graduate covers all the bases in minor league job

“I want to have a career as a custodian,” said Justin Fletcher, who had worked with the custodian in his high school for the years he attended.

Justin came to VR’s Conway office to get assistance preparing for and finding a job. While working in the training center, baseball and custodial work was all he talked about, and once he found out about the custodial program, he counted the days until he could begin.

During the first week, it became obvious that Justin learns differently and that adjustments would need to be made to help him in the process.

Vocational ACE Tania Appel had recently attended a VR training session on learning styles and used techniques learned at that training to assist Justin. She developed a system of cards with pictures of the different areas that needed to be cleaned. Cleaning requirements were listed on the cards and the cards were laminated and attached to a ring Justin could wear on his belt loop.

Since Justin loves baseball, a baseball theme was utilized in his training. Check off boxes shaped like infield bases were placed next to each cleaning activity and when Justin finished the activity, he made a check on the corresponding “base” with an erasable marker. When a card was completed he would get a “home run” and if a job was not done correctly he would receive a “strike.”

After completing the custodial program, Appel helped Justin find employment with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans as a custodial porter. Job Coach Linda Roberts assited Justin in becoming familiar with his job duties.

Justin can also be seen at every Pelicans game in the stands behind home plate making calls along with the umpire on the field.

Graduation Bonanza in Lexington

The Lexington Area Transition Team hosted their 2nd Annual Graduation Bonanza on May 14, 2015. Graduating seniors and their families from all Lexington School Districts attended the event.

Students and their families heard from an employer that discussed what they look for in a potential candidate when filling open positions and a current high school student discussed his challenges and his successes.

Representatives from Midlands Technical College’s Counseling Services discussed how students learn about and receive accommodations in post secondary schools.

Each student was presented with a congratulatory certificate for completion of high school.

Photo (l to r): Counselors Ashley Eaddy, Shainna Williams, Mila Burgess-Conway, and Terrance Jones; Marketta Cooper, Intern; Stacey Murray, Business Development Specialist.

Graduates recognized at Bryant Center

The Bryant Center’s Business Applications Plus (BAP) graduates for 2015 and their family members were recognized for their dedication and tireless support at a recent luncheon.

The BAP class began eight months ago by teleconferencing instruction from Columbia. The eight students began together and completed the program successfully. With the help of Business Development Specialist Ryan Skinner and Vocational ACE/Job Preparedness Instructor Thomas McAbee, and the Bryant Center’s counselors, seven students have jobs, Skilled Workforce Apprentice Training (SWAT) opportunities or internships.

“This has been one of the most successful BAP classes the Bryant Center has had,” said Jennie Thomas, Bryant Center Administrator. “It is a joy to see them succeed.”

Photo, front row (l to r): Students Bobby Scott, Tara Lee Butts and Sherry Rice. Back Row (l to r): Instructor Dara Hearn; students Kallie NeSmith, Dorandes Thompson, Angela Lane, Connie Foulker; Robin Hernandez; and Deborah Alexander, Instructor Assistant.

Teaming up with the Commission for the Blind

The Laurens VR Office recently met with representatives from the SC Commission for the Blind (SCCB) to explore ways to coordinate services for those with blindness.

Commission of the Blind representatives shared information about what different levels of blindness may look like to an individual and the various causes of blindness.

Each agency also discussed the services they offer which can help those with blindness achieve employment.

Photo l to r: Rhonda Thompson and Jenny Bond from the Commission for the Blind; Dr. Marvin Efron, Chairman, Foundation for the South Carolina Commission for the Blind; Bradyn Roddy, VR Counselor.

Community involvement: Greenville

Photo l to r: Counselors Jennifer Richardson, Cierra Mack, Vaneasha Danzy; Reedy Ripit, Greenville Drive mascot; Christine Nemshick-Lauer, Transition Counselor; Ginny Hughes, Counselor; Jill Vaughn, Employment Coach; and Kerry Reece, Job Coach at ADA 25th Anniversary Celebration and Community Resource Fair.

Greenville office staff participated in the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) 25th Anniversary Celebration and Community Resource Fair at Fluor Field (Home of the Greenville Drive).

Martha Childress was the featured speaker. Childress, a University of South Carolina student and Greenville native, was shot by a stray bullet and paralyzed in Columbia’s Five Points while chatting with friends in 2013. Since then, she has become a strong accessibility advocate.

The event was sponsored by Greenville CAN (Collaborative Action Network), a network of self advocates, providers, families, and professionals in Greenville County working together to strengthen the community for individuals with disabilities and special needs.

On June 10, students from JL Mann High School and Woodmont High School, along with transition Counselors Vaneasha Danzy, Jennifer Richardson, Christine Nemshick-Lauer, and Chris Utsey, toured Greenville Technical College.

The students also listened to a current Greenville Tech student who has epilepsy share his story and experiences. The high school students gathered information about tutorial services, computer labs, library services, disability center services, and class locations.

We’re In the Band!
VR debuts new customer service program

The Human Resources Development department recently introduced a new and energetic customer service theme: “We’re in the Band.”

This creative, motivating program presents customer service as seen through the eyes of an up and coming Northwest folk rock group.

The class, taught by Teri Norris and Zentra Choice, focuses on the importance of preparation, teamwork and connecting with your audience. If you’ve ever been to a show that ends with a standing ovation, or a concert that ends with everyone on their feet, you’ll be able to connect with this fun, lively take on serving customers.

All new employees attend Customer Service training, along with the popular True Colors training, within their first months of employment.

Photo l to r: DDS Medical Consultants Cleve Hutson, Angela Saito, Joe Moore and Tom Brown

Q Stories

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

—Benjamin Franklin

Did you know...

...that since 2006, VR employee injuries have declined by more than 50% and client injuries have declined by nearly 60%?


July 8-10 - The SC Youth Leadership Forum (YLF), an annual career leadership program for high school juniors and seniors (or high school students between the ages of 17-21) with disabilities who have leadership aspirations in both their school and community, will be held at Columbia College and the Wil Lou Gray Opportunity School. Students will enhance and grow their leadership, citizenship and social skills while taking part in activities enabling them to network, learn from each other and build lasting friendships. Get more information at ylf.scvrd.net.
July 24, 8am-4:30pm - Life with Brain Injury Statewide Conference at the Columbia Conference Center, 169 Laurelhurst Avenue, Columbia, SC. Get more information from the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina.
The Bryant Center
  The Bryant Center in Lyman is accepting referrals for its two-week Summer Program for Transition Students. Students attending one of the scheduled sessions will participate in physical therapy or exercise; take part in simulated work experiences and learn independent living skills through occupational therapy; enhance leadership, teamwork and communication skills; explore careers and post-secondary interests; and engage in mock interviews and other job preparedness activities.
July 13-24 - Session 2: Summer Transition Program.
July 27-August 7 - Session 3: Summer Transition Program.
  All sessions meet 9 am-12 pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  To refer a student, please fax a SCVR 219, SCVR 318, SCVR 318a (signed by the student and parent) and a Comprehensive Center referral form to Jennie Thomas at 864-949-6775.
  For more information, call 864-249-8030 or 888-322-9391
Comprehensive Evaluation Center (CEC)
  The Summer Transition Evaluation Program for Students (STEPS) is a two week program at the CEC in Columbia designed to assess the needs of transition students with physical disabilities or who require assistive devices in a variety of areas and to provide recommendations that will enable them to make a successful transition from school to work and/or post secondary training. Each session is different, to meet the different needs of our students:
July 13-24 - Session 2: STEPS. For students who are transitioning to work.
  To refer a student, complete a referral form (#204) and indicate which session is preferred.
  For more information, contact Ali Cato at 803-896-6040

Enabling eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to prepare for, achieve and maintain competitive employment

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