VR3: Making a Difference
Vocational Rehabilitation, Lets go to work
Q1, Quality One, Quality happens one person at a time
VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results March 2016

Partnerships Power Project SEARCH

Photo: Former Project SEARCH intern Kayla Chambers (right) is training current Project SEARCH intern Whitney Davis in the Endoscopy Department at Spartanburg Medical Center.

“I love working with people,” says Kayla Chambers, Patient Care Associate at Spartanburg Medical Center (SMC) and former VR client. “I love talking to the patients and I love my coworkers.”

Endoscopy, emergency room, environmental and food services are some of the areas where high school students like Kayla found employment through Project SEARCH. Project SEARCH is a school-to-work transition program providing education and job training to students with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities through three 10-week internships in twelve departments, with more requesting interns.

Project SEARCH is “woven into the fabric of our hospital,” says Phil Feisal, President of SMC.

Partnering with Spartanburg School District 6, SC Vocational Rehabilitation and the local Workforce Investment Board, SMC was the first Project SEARCH training site in South Carolina.

Six of the seven first year students moved into competitive employment—five at SMC and one elsewhere.

“We were able to watch them grow,” says Ginger Hucks, Director of Hospitality Services at SMC. “They went from very nervous students to very responsible adult employees.”

Project SEARCH exemplifies the power of partnerships. It has already expanded to two additional sites.

Look for the Project SEARCH special issue of VR3 coming in a few weeks. Find out how Project SEARCH is changing the lives of students, families and business.

Around the state

DDS employees awarded SSA Regional Commissioner’s Citations

Outstanding Disability Determination Services (DDS) employees received 2015 Social Security Administration (SSA) Regional Commissioner’s citations.

Dr. Katrina Doig received the Regional Commissioner’s Exceptional Customer Service Award for her work as the Charleston Regional Office’s subject-matter expert on Special Senses. Dr. Doig served as a statewide project manager to help improve and update training materials and resource guides for examiners and medical staff.

As a participant of the Atlanta Regional DHU Workgroup, Summer Ham, SC Disability Hearing Officer Supervisor from the Greenville Regional Office, received the Regional Commissioner’s Team citation. Ham contributed valuable insights to this workgroup in a regional endeavor to alleviate a pending backlog.

The Columbia Regional Office Support Services Team, supervised by Connie Thompson, received the 2015 SSA Associate Commissioner’s DDS Honors Team Award. This award recognizes outstanding team performance and exceptional customer service.

Photo: The Columbia Regional Office Support Services Team, seated (left to right): Mildred Levy, Kim Dotson, Natasha Mitchell.

Standing (left to right):  Hazel “Buddy” Mccart, Keith Doyens, Gabriel Williams, Maria Shull, Connie Thompson, Shawanda Williams, Terrance Smith, Marilyn Hatfield, Sandra Washington.

Not pictured, Kristopher McGee.

School for the Deaf and the Blind students graduate from work training center

Spartanburg’s first graduate class from the South Carolina School for the Deaf and Blind (SCSDB). This graduation celebration involved all transition students that are currently in the Work Training Center and Spartanburg Staff. Each SCSDB student was awarded a certificate of successful completion from the work training center.

Photo: Elizabeth Crawford, SCSDB Job Coach; Laquashus Mack, VR client; Amelia England, VR Counselor; Keona Williams VR client; DeCole Gallman, Spartanburg Area Supervisor; Chris McLeod, VR client; Teri Eakins, Area Case Services Manager; David Martynyuk and Jasmine Belton, VR clients; Tim Geter, Center Manager.

McKenzie first graduate of forklift class in Sumter


Quincey McKenzie is first VR client at the Sumter office to graduate from their Basic Forklift Operator Training Course. This 10-hour advanced skills course includes basic instruction on safety and operation of a forklift.

Photo: Quincey McKenzie, VR client (right), and instructor John Bailey, Job Readiness Training Associate.

ITTC Celebration of Success

The Information Technology Training Center (ITTC), along with the Business Advisory Council, hosted a Celebration of Completion on January 13 for clients who recently finished their training at the ITTC.

 A Certificate of Achievement was presented to each client who successfully completed the Computer Aided Drafting and Design (CAD), Programming (PRG), or the Network & Server Support (NSS) program.

The ITTC staff commends them for their hard work and accomplishment. Companies that hire these individuals will gain qualified, hard-working, and dedicated employees.

ITTC clients: Charles Spence, Charles "Danny" Miles, Susan Schumpert, Jeremy Willhite, Gladys Reed, James Adamson, David McDaniel.

Referral Development in Spartanburg

Representatives from the Upstate Family Resource Center (UFRC) visited the Spartanburg Area Office on January 29. They received an overview of VR services followed by detailed information about comprehensive services, substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation technology.

UFRC spoke about how VR services will have a direct impact on new initiatives that their coaches will be implementing.  UFRC coaches will begin referring their clients to VR as part of their treatment plan and arranging appointments through direct counselor contact, walk-ins or by having a VR staff member go to their location.

Lunch & Learn in Hemingway

Photo (left to right):  Wilhelmenia Pressley; Lisha Pasley, District Office; Teresa Moses, Williamsburg Area Supervisor.

The Williamsburg office held a Lunch & Learn at Hemingway High School in Hemingway on January 27.

During the event, different approaches to improving communication with parents and staff to help students receive services that can lead to employment were explored. Attendees included the teaching staff, curriculum coordinator, a district office representative, guidance counselor, and the school nurse.

Photo (left to right): Teresa Moses, Area Supervisor; school representatives Wilhelmenia Pressley, Elneicia Burgess, Conseula Dulce, Tara Richardson, and Brenda Altman; Kenndra Brown, VR Counselor.

VR staff also attended a Johnsonville High School staff meeting on February 1. Sam Tutten, principal, introduced the Williamsburg team, who discussed the benefits of applying for VR services, work experiences and training opportunities. They also answered questions on how current and former students can apply for VR services.

Business Applications Plus students find success at the Bryant Center

All students in the Business Applications Plus Class at the Bryant Center found employment or participated in work experiences prior to the end of class.

Photo, front row (left to right): Students Amber Blanton, Wanda Powers, Jennifer Bogart, Janice Degraffinreid.

Back row (left to right): Thomas McAbee, Vocational Assessment and Career Exploration/Job Preparedness Instructor; Ryan Skinner, Business Development Specialist; Harriett Abner, Rock Hill Area Supervisor; Deborah Alexander, Teaching Assistant; Kenneth Gardner, Instructor.

Anderson recognized for years of service

At the Pee Dee Workforce Development Board meeting on February 2, 2016, Carol Anderson of SC Vocational Rehabilitation was recognized by chair Joyce Hill for her years of service as a board member (2006-2015).

Photo (left to right): Carol Anderson, Area Development Director; Joyce Hill, Chairperson, Pee Dee Workforce Development Board.

National Soup Month in Gaffney

The Gaffney VR office participated in National Soup Month during January. Staff collected a box full of canned soups which was donated to Bread of Heaven.

The Gaffney office participates in community events throughout the year.

Bounce Back success in Laurens and Greenwood

VR clients recently attended the first annual Bounce Back Seminars in Laurens and Greenwood. Bounce Back is designed to help individuals with criminal backgrounds learn more about available community resources and the challenge of seeking employment.

Guest speakers from Laurens County included representatives from Laurens County Library; TD Bank; Piedmont Technical College; SC Legal Services and SC  Probation, Parole and Pardon Services provided information to help individuals bounce back from hardship.

Highlights of the event in Greenwood included presentations on the expungement and pardon processes, the usefulness of federal bonding vouchers, and working successfully with a probation officer.

More than 50 clients and community agency representatives attended the event in Laurens, while more than 60 participated in the daylong event in Greenwood.

These events also gave non-VR participants a chance to learn about VR services and eligibility.

The Greenwood “Puppy Bowl”

The Greenwood office held a “Puppy Bowl” on February 3rd. Staff members collected and donated items for the Greenwood Humane Society.

The Humane Society of Greenwood works with Vocational Rehabilitation in a variety of ways.  They have participated in Service Learning Day and on the job tryouts. They also reach out when new opportunities are available for referrals.

The relationship VR and the Humane Society of Greenwood has built over the past two years has greatly benefited VR clients. The “Puppy Bowl” was an opportunity for VR staff to give back.

Photo (left to right): Andrea Witt, Counselor; Catherine Richardson, Administrative Team Support Specialist; Samantha Emily, Job Preparedness Instructor.

Vacation Myrtle Beach Job Fair

Vacation Myrtle Beach partnered with Vocational Rehabilitation in Conway and Horry County Schools to sponsor a Job Fair on February 5 specifically for VR clients. The job fair was a huge success and so far 14 clients have achieved employment.

The Conway office is very excited about this new partnership with Vacation Myrtle Beach and looks forward to expanding this partnership in the future.

The Conway office also held its Annual Spring Job Fair on February 25. Participating businesses included Wal-Mart, Lowe's, Sands Resort, Shine Studios, Summit Place, Broadway Grand Prix, Myrtle Beach Sports Complex, and Fatz Café.

BPN meeting highlights rehabilitation technology

The Anderson Area office hosted a Business Partnership Network breakfast meeting on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, attended by twelve employers and partner agencies. Guest speaker Jonathan Cruce spoke about the VR services available at the Bryant Center, with a special emphasis on rehabilitation technology services.

The employers were amazed at some of the gadgets Cruce demonstrated and a number of them said they did not realize that VR could provide workplace accommodations for our clients. Many employers were also excited to learn about VR’s Job Retention Services.

The question and answer session afterwards sparked some great conversation among everyone regarding hiring issues and placing clients who have a criminal background.  Before leaving, the employers toured the work training center.

Harris family shows spirit of giving

Priscilla Jackson-Harris is a counselor in the Spartanburg VR office. In December, her family stepped up to help four children they had gotten to know through church at the Salvation Army.

Read the full story on GoUpstate.com.

Transition Fair and Community Resource Fair are successes for Lexington office

Lexington-Richland School District Five held its annual Transition Fair on February 9 to help families find community resources for self-advocacy, independent living, and employment support  for students with special needs. Sade Pugh, Transition Counselor, at the Lexington Area Office spoke one-on-one with parents about Vocational Rehabilitation and its services to assist students with disabilities transition into careers after graduation.

Photo: Amber Lyford, Job Preparedness Instructor/Benefits Specialist; Shainna Williams, Transition Counselor; Eric Tolbert, Project SEARCH Job Coach; Sade Pugh, Transition Counselor; Antwan Middle, Transition Counselor.

Counselor Karmiah Ervin of the Lexington Area Office lent her voice to the Community Resource Fair on February 5, at Mt. Zion Baptist Church to inform the public about VR services.

The outreach event provided insightful information on VR, WellCare Health Plans, Medicaid information, and community resources.

Photo (left to right): Karmiah Ervin, Counselor, and Takeela Bradshaw, Counselor Intern.

Brain injury interest in Greenville

The Brain Injury Interest Group held its second meeting on February 18. Hosted by Jill Vaughn, Employment Coach at VR’s Greenville office, and Kimbo Bridges from the Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital. In addition to VR staff from the upstate, this group includes representatives from the Department of Disabilities and Special Needs’ Head & Spinal Cord Injury (HASCI) program and the Greenville Healthcare System. The group is composed of professionals that work in the traumatic brain injury field who meet quarterly to discuss best practices, community outreach, collaboration and referrals.

Great success at the Spartanburg Job Fair

Eight-two VR clients attended the Spartanburg Job Fair on February 18, where they interacted with more than 40 employers and resource partners. Many clients received interviews, and a number of clients were hired on the spot.

Q Stories

Freddie Evans, a client at the Florence VR office, recently sent this message:

“I want to give recognition to a couple of people in that office for their excellent job. They got me where I needed to be. I got a good job and good benefits. I want to give a personal recognition to Mr. Jerry Neel (Center Manager), Mr. Patrick Williamson (Job Preparedness Instructor), Ms. Tameka Williams (Counselor), Ms. Susan Courtney (Business Development Specialist), and Mr. Kenneth Feagins (Area Client Services Manager).

“I appreciate everything that they did, helping me to get back where I need to be, and giving consideration to me personally. The program was a success for me.”

Did you know...

...that the Evaluation Center, which has recently undergone facility improvements, is the oldest building on VR’s West Columbia campus?

It was built in 1976 and named in honor of former Commissioner Dill Beckman.


March 3, 9-10:30am - Business Partnership Network Quarterly Meeting, focusing on preparing today's workforce to fill the existing skills gap through alternative training options and educating school-aged youth through real world experiences. Guest speakers include Darren Prevost, Regional Coordinator at STEM Centers SC, STEM Lowcountry Collaborative, and Tiffany Lilly, VR Counselor, High School High Tech Program. Other highlights include recent success stories from Berkeley/Dorchester’s Internship and Apprenticeship programs
  For more information, call 843-761-6036 or 866-297-6808
March 3, 9am-12pm - Talent Fair.
  For more information, call 843-740-1600
March 3 - Annual Transition Job Fair for high school students in Horry County Participating businesses include Hwy 55, Forever 21, Environmental Staffing, Holiday Inn Express, Vacation Myrtle Beach (which includes all 14 resorts), Bob Evans, Springmaid Resorts, Goodwill, and Ross.
  For more information, call 843-248-2235
March 11 - Meeting with Spartanburg Public Safety Dept to help raise awareness about the signs of domestic violence.
March 17 - Workforce Summit to strengthen partnerships with other agencies.
  For more information, call 864-585-3693 or 866-451-1480
March 23 - Food Service Industry Job Fair.
  For more information, call 864-224-6391
March 23 - Bounce Back event at the Williamsburg County Recreation Dept, 2084 Thurgood Marshall Hwy. Will provide information and resources to clients and individuals who are or were involved with SCDC, PPP or other legal issues.
  For more information, call 843-354-5252
March 29, 11am-2pm - VR Fair at the Darlington Public Library.
  For more information, call 843-538-3116 or 888-577-3549
Columbia Area
April 12, 10am-2pm - The Spring Midlands Job Fair at Dutch Square Mall (421 Bush River Road Columbia, SC).  SC Works Midlands will be partnering with the Columbia Mayor's Committee on Employment for People with Disabilities, Operation Palmetto Employment, and the SC National Guard.
  For more information, contact Cindy Popenhagen, Chair of the Columbia Mayor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, at 803-734-3550

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.