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

Health, wellness and laughter in the workplace

“Healthy employees are happier employees,” says Diana Brown, Human Resources Manager, summing up the goal of the Wellness program for VR staff. “And, this increases their ability to be productive employees.”

Diana’s enthusiasm for health and wellness is contagious. She is engaging and always smiling and laughing. “How can we make our work environment one that fosters a holistic approach to overall heath in body, mind and soul? That's the aim of the program.”

Photo: Diana Brown, Human Resources Manager and VR Wellness Coordinator.

Diana plans and coordinates wellness events for staff at the West Columbia campus and works with each office to organize activities, events and provide them with a variety of information and resources.

“Each office has a wellness coordinator, someone who accepts that responsibility as a passion,” she explains. “It's something these individuals do because they recognize the importance of it, not just in their own personal lives, but also in a broader sense.”

Many offices offer “Lunch and Learn” activities that focus on topics such as stress management, heart and kidney health, the impact of smoking, taking breaks to reduce the impact of sitting all day, and healthy food substitutes. Some offices also conduct wellness walks, steps challenges or organize other events. “For example, the Columbia DDS (Disability Determination Services) office has a yoga session on Tuesday afternoons.”

Wellness coordinators also send out email reminders, newsletters about what is planned for that office, special recognition, and information on health awareness months. They may plan employee breakfasts and employee birthday parties once per month, or once per quarter, depending on the size of the office.

Monthly fund raisers not only help raise awareness about different health-related issues but contribute to strengthening community relations. Employees make donations to wear jeans or dress business casual for a day. Participating organizations have included: United Way, SC Charities Inc., Low Country Equine-Assisted Psychotherapy, Lupus Foundation of America, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, Midlands Ride for the Kids for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and Camp T.A.L.K.

“Through our relationship with the Red Cross, we do two blood drives on site each year,” adds Diana. “One at the state office, and the other one at DDS.” A number of local offices also organize blood drives.

Diana encourages employees to check out the resources that PEBA (SC Public Employee Benefit Authority) provides to State Health Plan primary members, including adult vaccinations; diagnostic colonoscopies and routine screenings; diabetes education; flu vaccination; no-pay copay for eligible members with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure or diabetes; preventive screenings; and the tobacco cessation program.

She and other members of the Human Resources Department coordinate the various screenings that are available throughout the year.

“We've also done fun stuff like have Remington College come out to offer manicures for the employees,” says Diana. “The idea is that if you look good, you feel good. That's also part of the holistic approach.”

Diana’s aim with the Wellness Program is to provide a balance of resources that is both informative and fun.

“Health and wellness is an individual's choice. It's each individual's responsibility to utilize the resources available. I'm thankful for the employees who participate because it shows that they value their personal health, and what we're trying to do. We should be serious at work while we're working, but we should take a break, too, and have some fun in the process.”

“And,” she adds with a big smile, “there should be laughter in the workplace.”

Around the state

Disabilities Inclusion Summit in Mount Pleasant

More than 50 business and community leaders attended the Mt Pleasant Mayor’s Summit on Disabilities Inclusion in the Workplace on June 16.

“Our economy continues to grow and generate new job opportunities that should be realized by all of our citizens,” says Mayor Linda Page.

The event was the first of its kind in the region and was a collaborative effort among the Town of Mount Pleasant, VR, the US Business Leadership Network, Mount Pleasant Business Association and the East Cooper Hospitality Alliance.

“Despite the increase in the number of people in South Carolina’s labor force, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities continues to be much higher than for those without a disability,” says Neal Getsinger, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Commissioner. “Often these individuals just need the opportunity for training and simple accommodations to become valuable members of the workforce.”

Industry leaders come together in Oconee

The South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department (VR) and the Oconee Economic Alliance hosted a luncheon on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, at VR’s Oconee Area Office. Local industry representatives learned about the services VR provides, and how they can benefit from them to build a stronger and more diverse workforce. A tour of the work training center highlighted the hands-on training that clients receive through VR’s partnerships with local businesses. More than 25 industry leaders and employers attended the event, in addition to Senator Thomas Alexander and Representatives Bill Sandifer and Bill Whitmire.

Photo (left to right): Mike Smith, Warehouse Manager Greenfield Industries; Carol Davis, Graphic Designer, Blue Mountain of Seneca; Eric Rothell, Owner, Blue Mountain of Seneca, present to industry representatives at VR’s Oconee Area Office.

Project SEARCH graduation in the Midlands

Photo (left to right): Eric Tolbert, VR Job Coach; Katherine Harris, Business Liaison, Palmetto Health Parkridge; Project SEARCH graduates Taylor Keeshan, Rodheem Perry, Daniel Austin, Tarung Parikh, and Judith Gillings; Sandi Batten, Arc of the Midlands Job Coach; Elizabeth Magee, Instructor.

The Project SEARCH program at Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge held their inaugural graduation on Wednesday, June 1.

Five students with intellectual and developmental disabilities from District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties graduated from the year long program which promotes transition into the workplace for competitive employment.

All five interns are employed at the hospital.

Read more about Project SEARCH in the Midlands in the April 2016 issue of VR3.

Resource event for deaf and hard of hearing in Rock Hill

The Rock Hill Area Office hosted a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Resource event on June 20.

Gina Viruso Kitts, a current VR client who recently graduated from Winthrop University with a Master’s Degree in counseling, spoke about how to be a good advocate in an academic setting. Gina lost her hearing when she was three years old and her story resonated with other deaf and hard of hearing participants.

Kathy Stoehr, VR Interpreter, spoke about soft skills, incidental learning, perceptions, resources, advocacy and how VR services help individuals obtain and maintain employment.

Jeff Wilcox, a career specialist from SC Works, discussed VR’s partnership with SC Works in serving underemployed and unemployed individuals.

Students learn physics

More than 30 High School/High Tech students participated in the Florence Area office Education Day on May 6. Students from Wilson High School, West Florence High School and South Florence High School came together to learn how to apply basic principles of physics through a variety of activities such as roller track, slingshot, Newton’s Cradle, bumper marbles, and spiral funnel. Each activity provided a visual, auditory, and hands on learning experience illustrating the importance of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion and how they relate to the rides in the Carowinds park.

Conway Senior Celebration

The Senior Celebration was held on May 17 at Shoreline Behavioral Health Services in Conway, where seniors from nine high schools participated in the “Senior Survival” rope course.

The event promoted team building, collaboration, self-determination, and self-advocacy. Transition counselors encouraged students to conquer their fears and work together to achieve their goal. Students thoroughly enjoyed their experience and learned that they can accomplish anything they put their minds to.

Greenville BPN

The Greenville Area office held a Business Partnership Network (BPN) meeting on May 23. The diverse group of business and community leaders attending included representatives from North American Rescue, HKA Enterprises, Greenville Area Development Corporation, SC Works, Southern Weaving Corporation, the Hispanic Alliance, Carolina Tool Works, Del-Tec, Concepts to Companies, Southern Weaving Corporation, and Upstate Packaging LLC.

David Turnipseed, Area Supervisor, and Bernard Jones, Business Development Specialist, discussed how VR prepares clients for employment opportunities which require significant technical skills and plans to bring more demand driven training into the Training Center. They also talked about expanding outreach into the growing Hispanic community.

Turnipseed highlighted VR’s ability to place clients into competitive employment, modernization of the Greenville facilities and the addition of Two Rivers Medical (TRM) into the Training Center.

Jim Carino, Vice President of Operations at North American Rescue (NAR), wrapped up the meeting with a presentation about TRM and a tour of the VR facilities undergoing modifications to accommodate this business. TRM is a long established business, originally located in Missouri, which provides pharmaceuticals, medical-surgical supplies, dental supplies and lab equipment, kitting of materials, and warehousing and distribution to the U.S. military. TRM was recently purchased by and is a subsidiary of NAR.

VR clients will begin training in the TRM area in early August.

ServSafe certification in Greenwood

The Greenwood Area Office partnered with Piedmont Technical College to provide on-site training for nine VR clients to receive their ServSafe certification on June 23. ServSafe is a food and beverage safety training and certificate program administered by the National Restaurant Association. The program is accredited by American National Standards Institute and the Conference for Food Protection.

Lancaster Lunch and Learn

The Lancaster Area Office sponsored a Lunch and Learn Meeting with VR Engineer Jonathan Cruce on June 27, which focused on assistive technology and accommodations for clients and employees in the Lancaster area. Representatives from York Technical College, Department of Social Services Workforce Consultants Group, SC Works, Department of Employment and Workforce, ResCare and Goodwill Industries attended.

Bryant Center Summer Transition program

Students who attended the Bryant Center’s Summer Transition program in June participated in physical therapy, strength and stamina-building exercises, occupational therapy, work simulations, independent living activities, mock interviews, and other activities designed to prepare them for the transition from school to work.

Counselors wishing to refer transition students or recent graduates to the July 11-22 or August 1-12 sessions should forward referral packets to Jennie Thomas via e-mail or by fax to (864) 949-6775.

Charleston Summer Institute

The Charleston Area Office held a Summer Institute for 22 transition students on June 22-23. On the first day of the event, students participated in job preparedness classes that included workplace etiquette, resume development and interviewing skills. A representative from Publix provided instruction on good customer service practices. The second day featured guest speakers, community and educational resources, and local employers.

Participating partners included: Arclabs, Big by Nature, Charleston Mattress, Charleston Southern University, GCA Services Group, IDI, Palmetto Youth Connections, Pink Crocodile, Sanders Brothers Construction, Trident Technical College, Trident Technical College Youth Apprenticeship Program, Voter Registration and Walmart.

Photo: Students participate in mock interviews during the Charleston Summer Institute.

Laurens OSHA Safety Training class

In June the Laurens Office partnered with Piedmont Technical College to offer an OSHA Outreach 10-hour Safety Training class. This course teaches entry level workers skills and awareness on recognizing and preventing hazards in general industry settings, including—but not limited to—health care, manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, and retail.

The three day class had 10 participants who received lifetime certification on completion.

Q Quotes

The greatest wealth is health.


I have chosen to be happy because it is good for my health.


Wellness feeds your soul and makes you feel good.


Did you know...

...that each year more than 50,000 Americans with autism graduate from high school and that more than one-third do not work or continue their education while in their early 20s, according to a report from Drexel University.

Find out the innovative approaches that some major U.S. companies are taking to successfully employ persons with autism.


Lyman (Bryant Center)

The Bryant Center is accepting referrals for its two-week Summer Transition Program. Students attending each session 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.

Sessions will meet Monday, Wednesday and Friday 9am-1pm.

Students and recent graduates who are interested in attending should contact their VR counselor.

For more details, download the flyer.

July 11-22 - Session 2.
August 1-12 - Session 3.
  For more information, call 864-249-8030 or 888-322-9391
Evaluation Center

Learn leadership, teamwork, communication, self-advocacy and other skills while exploring career and college options at the two week Summer Transition Evaluation Program for Students (STEPS). Build your strength and stamina, gain independent living skills and participate in simulated work experiences. Two sessions are available. Each is different, to meet the different needs of our students:

Students who are interested in attending should contact their VR counselor.

Otherwise, to refer a student, complete a referral form and indicate which session is preferred.

For more details, download the flyer.

July 11-22 - Session 2: STEPS. For students transitioning to work.
  For more information, contact Ali Cato at 803-896-6040
July 12 - Summer Institute. Recruiter from Blue Cross Blue Shield will discuss employment opportunities and conduct mock interviews.
July 14 - Summer Institute. Students will visit the Lexington Sheriff Department to discuss employment opportunities and learn day-to-day job duties in law enforcement and participate in-office activities.
July 19 - Summer Institute. Recruiter from Blue Cross Blue Shield will discuss employment opportunities and conduct mock interviews.
  For more information, call 803-896-6333 or 866-206-5184
July 13-14 - Summer Institute which will include a trip to USC and a trip to Happy Cow Creamery to learn about technology in the agricultural industry.
July 20 - Job Fair.
July 25 - 26 - High School/High Tech students will tour the CU-ICAR (Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research) facility and then visit Greenville Tech to learn about the Engineering and Health Science departments. They will also meet with representatives from the Department of Natural Resources and Norbord, a plywood manufacturing company.
  For more information, call 864-229-5827 or 866-443-0162
July 13-14 - “My Future is So Bright-I Need Shades” Summer Institute.
  For more information, call 803-285-6909
July 14 - Project SEARCH parent meeting.
July 27 - Summer Institute for students transitioning from school to work.
  For more information, call 864-585-3693 or 866-451-1480
July 13-14 - “My Future is So Bright-I Need Shades” Summer Institute.
  For more information, call 803-641-7630 or 800-861-9410
July 22, 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.
July 26 - High School/High Tech Summer Institute.
  For more information, call 843-761-6036 or 866-297-6808

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.
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