VR3: Making a Difference
Q1, Quality One, Quality happens one person at a time
VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results November 2015

SCVRA Annual Meeting

Client Achievement Award recognition

Rose Robinson, center, receives the 2015 Client Achievement Award from Dr. Roxzanne Breland, Chair of the South Carolina State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation (left), and Barbara G. Hollis, Commissioner of the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department.

Rose Robinson of Walterboro received statewide recognition recently for her inspiration, determination and exceptional accomplishments.

Rose received VR’s Client Achievement Award at the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Association’s (SCVRA) annual meeting on October 16, 2015.

SCVRA is a support organization for the S.C. Vocational Rehabilitation Department, which prepares and assists eligible South Carolinians with disabilities to achieve and maintain competitive employment.

Rose sustained a gunshot wound while sitting in a swing on a playground at age 13 which left a bullet lodged near her spine. As a result, she has been unable to walk since the accident.

Rose’s many challenges included the loss of a young child, and she found it difficult to cope. She was angry and grieving the loss of her mobility. She had wanted to go to school, but felt limited and didn’t feel she had many opportunities for employment.

Through lots of counseling and guidance VR staff encouraged Rose that she could do anything she wanted to do. With help from VR, Rose enrolled in the Criminal Justice program at USC Salkehatchie. As she gained more confidence, Rose decided she wanted to tackle another dream: getting her driver’s license. VR matched her with a certified driving instructor and Rose received her license on her first try. She now has a car with accommodations recommended to her by VR rehabilitation engineers. These include hand mounted controls that let her operate the brake and gas using her left hand.

With her newfound independence and freedom, Rose completed her degree in Criminal Justice. But now she faced a new challenge: finding employment. As part of her course requirements, VR staff had connected her with a valued agency partner and arranged for her to participate in an internship at the local Probation, Parole and Pardon Services. That internship provided her with helpful experience that eventually led to another internship at the Law Offices of Christy Scott.

Three months later Rose was offered the position of Legal Assistant at the law office and now has a rewarding career utilizing her degree in Criminal Justice.

(left to right) Crystal Wigfall, Counselor; Allison Kitler, Walterboro Area Supervisor; Rose Robinson, Legal Assistant; Willie Spencer, Rose’s son; Mary Patricia Crawford, Attorney; Grant Crawford, Crawford Law Firm; Michelle Stockman, Vocational ACE; and Gail Murray, Area Development Director.

Rose is a true inspiration to others and reinforces that at VR, quality happens one person at a time.

VR staff members who assisted Rose in reaching her goals included Allison Kitler, Crystal Wigfall, Michelle Stockman, Debra Hiatt, Gail Murray, Tom Jackman, Todd Batt and the staff at the Evaluation Center in West Columbia.

Watch the 2015 Client Achievement Award video.

Commissioner’s Medal of Excellence honoree

Nicole Starkey, Disability Determination Services Program Analyst in West Columbia, received the Medal of Excellence from Commissioner Barbara Hollis.

Starkey was recognized for her outstanding commitment and exceptional dedication to helping others. She shows initiative and professionalism in completing her duties with a welcoming personality and attitude of helpfulness that ensures staff members come to her on a regular basis for guidance and assistance.

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.

Richloom PMC, Clinton

For years Richloom PMC has hired VR clients into full-time jobs with excellent benefits and a large number of them have built careers there for quite a few years. Last year alone 15 persons with disabilities from the vocational rehabilitation program joined Richloom full-time, working in packaging, inspection, loading and unloading, and other roles.

In addition many VR clients have built marketable skills through training that Richloom makes available as an outsource partner with the Laurens Training Center, learning warehousing, packaging and inspections; this partnership has been in place for more than 20 years.

Photo (left to right): Tom Heh, General Manager, Richloom; Roy Katz, President, Richloom; Chad Ulmer, Laurens Area Supervisor, Tim Evatt, State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation Board Member; Tim Gary, Laurens Training Center Manager.

Defender Industries Inc., Columbia

Defender Services is a valued business partner of VR’s Sumter office and since March of this year they have interviewed 30 VR clients and 10 were hired as a result of those interviews. Another 13 of them were provided opportunities for On-the-Job Training, and nine of those were hired.

The win-win partnership between Defender Services and VR has resulted in many individuals with disabilities being hired into full-time positions offering benefits.

Photo (left to right): Beverly Montgomery, SCVRD Counselor, Sumter; John Hornsby, SCVRD Sumter Area Supervisor; Dick McClain, District Manager, Defender Services; Patricia Gillins, Site Manager Defender Services; Rhonda Presha, Vice Chair, South Carolina State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation Board.

Schaeffler Group INA, Cheraw

In recent years 20 persons with disabilities who were clients of the Marlboro VR office have been hired at Schaeffler Group INA Bearing, including six this year. All are employed full-time with good pay and attractive benefits. They work in ball bearing manufacturing, assembly and general labor positions. Two VR clients have also been hired through a technical college partnership and the manufacturing certification program.

INA Bearing also provides outsource work that generates job readiness training opportunities for clients at the Marlboro VR Work Training Center in Bennettsville. Twelve or more clients learn job skills through this agreement everyday to prepare them to move on to employment.

Photo (left to right): Tillette Scott, Marlboro Area Supervisor; Phil Homan, Human Resource Director, Schaeffler Group; Joey Thomas, South Carolina State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation Board Member.

Legislative Award recipient: Senator Thomas Alexander

State Senator Thomas Alexander of Walhalla received the SCVRA Legislative Award for his longtime support of vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, both in the Oconee/Pickens area and statewide.

Senator Alexander has held the State Senate seat in district one since 1994 and for seven years prior to that was a member of the South Carolina House of Representatives. Throughout his years of public service Senator Alexander has reached out to assist the SCVRD in support of its mission and its partnerships with area businesses and industries. He has also been instrumental in the restoration of state funding for the department’s services.

He is extremely receptive to VR’s concerns and always wants to know how he can help South Carolinians with disabilities have the opportunity for career success.

Photo: Senator Thomas Alexander receives the South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Association Legislative Award from Dr. Roxzanne Breland, Chair of the South Carolina State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation (left) and Barbara G. Hollis, Commissioner of the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Department.

Division award winners

Rhonda Pitts (left), Client Services Supervisor at Holmesview Center in Greenville, receives the Administrator of the Year award from the SCVRA Administrators Association President Gene Wilson.

Wykesha Hayes (left), was recognized by her peers with the Direct Client Service Division award. Hayes, Exercise Physiologist at the Muscular Development Center, receives the award from Kerry Reece.

Tonya Barkley (left), Fiscal Specialist in Sumter, accepts the Technical Services Association Award from Elaine Donaldson, TSA President.

Lee Evans (left), Disability Determination Examiner in Greenville, accepts the Professional Staff Association Award from Teresa Moses, PSA President.

Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award honorees

The 2015 Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award was presented to the Spartanburg Project SEARCH team: Spartanburg School District 6, Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System and the Spartanburg Area VR team.

The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business led, one year school-to-work program that takes place entirely at the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training through worksite rotations.

Photo (left to right): Janet Holmes, Coordinator of Special Services, Spartanburg School District 6; Dr. Alan Eggert, Executive Director of Special Services, Spartanburg School District 6; Demetrius Farrington, Spartanburg Medical Center; DeCole Gallman, Spartanburg Area Supervisor, SCVRD; Margaret Alewine, Director of Planning and Program Evaluation, SCVRD.

Also recognized but not in attendance were Gloria Graves, Coordinator for Student Programs at Spartanburg Regional and Dr. Darryl Owings, Superintendent for Spartanburg School District 6.

Around the state

Open House in Marlboro

SC House Representative Patricia Henegan (left) and Marlboro Area Supervisor Tillette Scott.

The Marlboro Area Office celebrated its annual Open House on Thursday, October 8.

Ninety-four community, business, and industrial partners joined the VR staff for a delicious fish fry and networking opportunity.

Holmesview celebrates success

“We’ve had a successful year at Holmesview Center,” said Rhonda Pitts, Client Services Supervisor, as she thanked guests attending a recent celebration honoring those who contributed to the successful 2014-2015 fiscal year.

Guests included State Representative Mike Pitts; Board chairperson Dr. Roxzanne Breland; Anderson Area Supervisor Lisa Gillespie and Greenville Area Supervisor David Turnipseed; ACSM Johanne Steigerwald; and Counselors Earl Beasley, Shameria Glover, Chris Mulley and Mila Burgess-Conway.

“We are proud of our program and the accomplishments of our residents,” she continued. “They work hard during their stay at Holmesview and leave with a sense of accomplishment, but more importantly a sense of direction.”

Also in attendance was Leanne Taylor, a former client who is no stranger to many VR staff. She completed the treatment program in 2011 and has made it her mission to share her story so that it can be an encouragement to others.

“I did not get clean right away. I relapsed,” she said. “But you know what? It is not what you do when you hit the ground but whether or not you get up and use the tools that the folks here at Holmesview teach you.”

Leanne recounted her struggle over the years and about how it is a journey to get the life she wants. She told clients that getting their life back in order, getting a job, making amends and healing relationships was not going to happen in a day. She explained that what worked for her was celebrating the small victories, such as her first pay check, and reveling in the ability to buy what she needed. Leanne is currently the office manager for Dr. Gill Thomas, an optometrist in Clinton.

“As we celebrate our success and our clients’ success, we must always remember the full team,” said Rhonda Pitts.

Holmesview Center served 566 clients between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015. The Greenville office led with referring 129, followed by the Anderson office with 109.

The celebration also honored area office counselors who had contributed greatly to Holmesview’s successful year. Chris Mulley referred 48 clients, with 43 admissions and 36 completions. That is a 91% completion rate. Earl Beasley referred 44 clients, with 43 admissions and 39 completions for an 84% completion rate. Shameria Glover referred 43 clients, with 31 admissions and 26 completions and an 84% completion rate.

Pitts ended the celebration by thanking everyone for their teamwork and dedication to the clients. That is what Holmesview Center is all about.

Charleston DDS staff go pink for breast cancer awareness

Charleston DDS staff went pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month on October 22.

Q Stories

Keith Rabon, Conway Work Training Center Manager, recently sent in this note:

“My family and I were walking from the stadium in Columbia on a Saturday night. My brother and daughter had gone ahead of me as I slowed to wait for my wife and son.

“I heard my brother call my name and my daughter scream, ‘Daddy, help him!‘

“I ran to where they were and a man had gotten out of his car and was choking. He could not speak or make hardly any sound. I gave him a few slaps to the back, but that was not working, so I went behind him and gave him a few abdominal thrusts. The item in his throat dislodged and he was able to get it down and began breathing and speaking. He got in the car with his daughter, took a sip of soda, and said he was fine.

“The whole episode may have lasted 30 seconds, but in that moment, all of the years of safety trainings and refreshers paid off. What we learn and what we do MATTERS!”

Tony Dunkin, Safety and Risk Management Specialist, commented: “Keith I am so glad that you were there to assist him in his time of need. What we do here at VR, the trainings and what we learn, truly does matter. Thanks for your courage and dedication to this agency and our safety program.”

Adds Jeb Batten, Attorney, “Keith’s actions certainly validate all of the effort Neil (Lown) and Tony have put into our safety and prevention programs.”

Did you know...

Richard Kuffel
July 24, 1947 – November 2, 2003

...that Richard Kuffel was a dedicated and passionate VR staff member who worked tirelessly with transition staff and education partners around the state to improve opportunities for students transitioning from school to work?

Richard was instrumental in developing transition programs which continue to grow, and each year VR recognizes an outstanding partner in his honor with the Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award.


November 3 - Bounce Back 2015. Clients who have criminal backgrounds will be able to learn about special services available throughout the community.
November 3 - At the November meeting of the Anderson SHRM group. Anderson Area HR managers can learn about Holmesview Center and the services available to their employees. Rhonda Pitts, Client Services Supervisor at Holmesview, will be the speaker.
  For more information, call 803-641-7630 or 800-861-9410
November 4 - Open House.
  For more information, call 843-248-2235
November 4 - Disability Mentoring Day. Participating students will learn about local jobs available, what employers look for in an employee, and local colleges and programs available for graduating students.
  For more information, call 843-662-8114
November 4 - High School/High Tech Disability Mentoring Day. Students will have the opportunity to job shadow and participate in other activities related to goal setting and future planning.
  For more information, call 864-229-5827 or 866-443-0162
November 5 - Bounce Back 2015 will provide education, job preparedness instruction, and a talent fair for clients who have a criminal background. We will have representatives from Probation Parole and Pardon Services, the Solicitor’s office, Trident Technical College, and the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  For more information, call 843-761-6036 or 866-297-6808
November 6, 9am-10:30am - Business Partnership Network meeting at Clemson City Hall. Rhonda Pitts, Client Services Supervisor, will discuss the services available at Holmesview Center.
  For more information, call 864-882-6669 or 866-313-0082
November 10 - Business Partnership Network meeting featuring guest speaker Barry Waddell, Client Services Supervisor, Palmetto Center.
  For more information, contact Kitty L. Bamberg at 803-534-4939
November 12, 7:30am-9am - Business Partnership Breakfast at the Richland Work Training Center, 201 Corporate Park Boulevard, Columbia, South Carolina.
  For more information, contact Jana Harrell at 803-786-0496
November 18 - Open House.
  For more information, call 864-297-3066
November 19, 9am-10pm - Lunch-N-Learn. Guest Speaker Barry Waddell, Client Services Supervisor, will speak about the Palmetto Center.
  For more information, call 843-740-1600

Events listed on Eventbrite

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.