VR3: Making a Difference
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VR3  Ready...Reliable...Results December 2016

SCVRA Annual Meeting

Client Achievement award recognition

Photo: Brian Denny (second from left), accompanied by his wife Jessica, receives the 2016 Client Achievement Award from Dr. Roxzanne Breland, Chair of the SC State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Neal Getsinger (right), VR Commissioner.

Brian Denny of Columbia received statewide recognition recently for his determination and exceptional accomplishments.

Denny received VR’s Client Achievement award at the SC Vocational Rehabilitation Association (SCVRA) annual meeting on October 28, 2016.

Denny sustained a high level spinal cord injury (C3-C4) while on the job at a building supply company. After the accident he became discouraged trying to find employment, but he knew if someone would give him a chance he had a lot to offer.

After applying for multiple jobs Denny was referred to VR by the Spinal Cord Association. With the support of agency partners, VR staff was able to offer Brian encouragement and services that would eventually lead to successful employment.

During this time, Charlie Weston, founder and president of Guardian Fence Suppliers, had heard about Denny through mutual associates. Weston was interested in hiring Denny, but had some concerns. Reggie Murphy of SC Works assured him that all of his questions had solutions and referred him to VR.

VR’s Skilled Workforce Apprenticeship Training (SWAT) allowed Denny to learn the position at Guardian and gave Weston the opportunity to see that he could do the job.

Photo: (left to right) Niki Ostrander, Client Services Specialist; Stephen Marshall, Business Services Coordinator; Troy Hall, Administrative Team Support Specialist; Ella Durham, Counselor; Karen Hill Gordon, Business Development Specialist; Stacy Lever, Richland Area Supervisor; Tom Jackman, Rehabilitation Technology Manager; Joe Anthony, Engineering Associate; Neal Getsinger, VR Commissioner.

With a few pieces of assistive technology suggested to him by VR rehabilitation engineers, including an adjustable height desk, mouth stick and iPad, Denny excelled. Since his hire in 2015 he has been promoted to Sales Manager.

VR staff members who assisted Denny in reaching his goals included Steve Marshall, Niki Ostrander, Tom Jackman, Joe Anthony, Ella Durham, Karen Hill Gordon, Troy Hall and Stacy Lever.

Watch the 2016 Client Achievement Award video.

Exemplary Employer award recognition

Photo: Delleney Love (second from left), Certified Technology Expert, and Mark Williamson (center), Service Director, from Love Automotive in Columbia, receive the SCVRA Exemplary Employer Award from Rita Artemus, Lexington Area Supervisor (left); Nasser Sartip, Vocational ACE; and Dr. Roxzanne Breland (right), Chair of the SC State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Love Chevrolet in Columbia received VR’s Exemplary Employer award at the SCVRA annual meeting on October 27.

Love Chevrolet has been an indispensable partner to VR for more than 18 years. It has a long history of providing valuable training experiences to VR clients, including job tryouts, trial work experiences, job shadowing and on-the-job training. Over the years Love has hired more than 65 VR clients in various positions such as cashiers, customer service representatives, business development, housekeeping, lube technicians, sales, maintenance, and information technology. These positions offer competitive salaries, benefits and exceptional opportunities for advancement within the organization.

In addition to training and hiring Love’s management has participated in numerous VR events, including open houses, Disability Mentoring Day, and local area job fairs.

Watch the 2016 Exemplary Employer Award video.

Commissioner’s Medal of Excellence honoree

John E. “Jeb” Batten, Esq., General Counsel for VR in West Columbia, received the Commissioner’s Medal of Excellence. Batten was recognized for his outstanding commitment and exceptional dedication to helping others. For more than 30 years he has provided guidance and advice to agency executives and employees through all facets of VR’s client, business and disability determination services.

Photo: Jeb Batten, Esq. (right), accepts the Commissioner’s Medal of Excellence Award from VR Commissioner Neal Getsinger.

Business Partnership award recognition

The following businesses were each honored at this year’s SC Vocational Rehabilitation Association (SCVRA) annual meeting. Each has been instrumental in providing training and employment opportunities for VR clients.

Self Regional Healthcare Diabetic Education Center, Greenwood

Self Regional Healthcare’s Diabetic Education Center is a valued business partner of VR’s Greenwood Area Office and has been referring individuals for VR services for 4 years. In just the past year more than 22 individuals referred by the Diabetic Education Center have received additional health management education, counseling and guidance, and training which led to achieving or maintaining employment.

Through this continued partnership individuals with diabetes are living a healthy life and reaching their goals.

Photo: Mara Schwartz (center), Diabetes Program Coordinator; and Karen Martin (right), RN, CDE, CPT; from Self Regional Healthcare Diabetes Education Center, receive the SCVRA Business Partnership Award from Dr. Roxzanne Breland (left), Chair of the SC State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation; Janet Kelly, Counselor; and Houston Matthews, Greenwood Area Supervisor.*

HBD Thermoid, Elgin

In August Jeff Mang, Plant Manager of HBD Thermoid in Elgin, served as keynote speaker for a Business Partnership Network meeting in VR’s Camden Area Office. He told more than 40 business and community leaders that Thermoid has hired ten percent of its workforce through VR’s Skilled Workforce Apprenticeship Training (SWAT).

The VR clients serve in positions ranging from shipping and receiving clerks to machine operators. One VR client has even been cross-trained in every part of the Thermoid facility and now serves in a lead role that provides guidance and support anywhere in the plant.

Ruiz Foods, Florence

Since the start up of the Florence Ruiz Foods facility in November of 2015 more than 20 VR clients have been hired into manufacturing positions through SWATs. Several have already received wage increases and Ruiz provides full benefits.

In addition to hiring qualified VR clients Ruiz Foods has participated in the Florence Area Office’s Open House, Disability Mentoring Day and helped sponsor events. They are a member of VR’s Business Partnership Network, and Kirk Sansbury, Ruiz Foods Plant Trainer for Florence, currently serves on the Florence Work Training Center Advisory Board.

Photo: Kirk Sansbury (left), Company Trainer, and Dennis Beckley (second from right), Director of Operations, at Ruiz Food Products, Inc., receive the SCVRA Business Partnership Award from Joseph Thomas, SC State Agency of Vocational Rehabilitation Board Member, and Pamela Company, Florence Area Supervisor.

Division award winners

Ali Cato, Supervisor of the Evaluation Center in West Columbia, a comprehensive services facility, was named the Administrator of the Year by the SCVRA Administrators’ Association. Cato continually puts the needs of clients and staff at the forefront. Her hands-on approach and willingness to step in and help in whatever way needed ensures that VR clients receive exceptional service. She is also committed to helping staff grow professionally.

Photo: Ali Cato (right), Comprehensive Program Supervisor at the Evaluation Center in West Columbia, receives the Administrator of the Year award from the SCVRA Administrators’ Association from John Sandifer, SCVRAA President.

Miranda Craig was honored as the 2016 Direct Client Services Division Employee of the Year. Craig exemplifies exceptional client service delivery, working one-on-one with clients to assess and evaluate their individual needs. She is a Job Preparedness Instructor at VR’s Conway Area Office.

Photo: Miranda Craig (left), Job Preparedness Instructor at VR’s Conway Area Office, receives the Direct Client Service Division award from Kerry Reece, DCSD Treasurer.

Tara Jordan received the Barry Cooper Award for Leadership for her professionalism, dedication and performance in providing disability determination services at the Charleston regional office.

Photo: Tara Jordan (right), Disability Determination Hearing Officer, accepts the Barry Cooper Award for Leadership from Yvonne Young, SC Association of Disability Evaluation Specialists President.

Carol Anderson, Area Development Director, received the Professional Staff Association Award for her service, compassion and commitment to improve the quality of life of the individuals served by VR.

Photo: Carol Anderson (left), Area Development Director, accepts the Professional Staff Association Award from Freddie Boan, PSA President.

Cale Hawkins, Information Resource Specialist at VR’s Disability Determination Services (DDS) office in West Columbia, received the Technical Services Association award. Hawkins was honored for his thoroughness, dedication, knowledge and leadership. Over the past thirteen years, he has been instrumental in the success of many large-scale DDS technology projects.

Photo: Cale Hawkins (center), Information Resource Specialist, accepts the Technical Services Association Award from Betsy McWhite (left) and Niki Ostrander.

Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award honoree

Joy Ivester received the Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award at the SCVRA annual meeting on October 28.

During her career, Ivester has expanded the Transition Alliance to the local level, with the result that SC now has 60 local inter-agency teams around the state that collaborate to increase successful post-secondary outcomes for students with disabilities. She is also a mentor, encouraging others to “take one more step” in changing the outcomes for youth with disabilities.

Photo: Joy Ivester (left), Transition Alliance of South Carolina Program Director, receives the Richard M. Kuffel Excellence in Education Award from Laura Spears, VR Transition Services Coordinator.

Around the state

Berkeley-Dorchester transition team recognized

The Berkeley-Dorchester VR transition team and was recognized for their partnership with AccessAbility on November 10, 2016 in Charleston. AccessAbility is a Center for Independent Living which promotes the full integration of people with disabilities in their communities. It serves the counties of Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Orangeburg and Williamsburg.

Left photo: Stephanie Gore (left), VR Transition Counselor, and Kelly Sieling, Berkeley-Dorchester Area Supervisor.

Right photo (left to right): Jason Torres, AccessAbility;  Stephanie Gore, VR Transition Counselor;  Nathan Todd, AccessAbility.

VR staff and students recognized at transition conference

Photo: Back row (left to right): Tammy Galindo, ACSM, Greenville Area Office; Amanda Butler, Transition Counselor, Conway Area Office; Jennifer Richardson, Transition Counselor, Greenville Area Office; Barbara Rhodes, Transition Counselor, Spartanburg Area Office; Amber Lydford, Regional Benefits Specialist. Front row: Michelle Hudson, Transition Counselor, Conway Area Office; Stephanie Gore, Transition Counselor, Berkeley-Dorchester Area Office; Xavier Sams, High School/High Tech Counselor, Florence Area Office.

The Division on Career Development and Transition International Conference was held in Myrtle Beach on October 19-22. The annual conference focused on ways to promote national and international efforts to improve the quality of and access to, career and transitional services. A number of VR staff members attended and participated in the conference.

Photo: Tyler Spainhour, a junior from North Myrtle Beach High School, operates a heat press machine. Tyler has also learned to operate a Cricut machine.

Amanda Butler and Michelle Hudson, transition counselors from the Conway Area Office, co-presented with Horry County School representative Jackie Bryant during a breakout session. They also invited their students to work as vendors which gave the students an opportunity to demonstrate the work skills that they have learned through VR services. The students operated an embroidery machine, a heat press, a Cricut cutting machine, and a button press. They interacted with customers, took orders, and produced products for the conference guests. The students were recognized for their work and achievements during the Friday luncheon.

During the conference, Laurens counselor Nitoya Evans was recognized for being a finalist for this year’s Special Educator of the Year award.

Photo (left to right): Chad Ulmer, Laurens Area Supervisor; Nitoya Evans, Transition Counselor;  Carolyn Shortt, District Transition Coordinator for Laurens County.

Project SEARCH comes to Pickens County

In partnership with the Oconee-Pickens VR Area Office, Baptist Easley Hospital recently became the newest Project SEARCH site in South Carolina. Project SEARCH is an international school-to-work program model designed to provide high school students with disabilities internship opportunities in a work environment, with the ultimate goal of competitive employment.

The following article about Project SEARCH at Baptist Easley Hospital was published in The Greenville News Online.


Balance Challenge

Dawn Hamelin, Fiscal Specialist and Wellness Coordinator for the Spartanburg Area Office, challenged staff in the month of October to be “balanced.” Along with many helpful email tips for balanced lifestyles, including eating habits and exercise, she also  educated staff on how to “hold a healthy balance.” Shoulders retracted, one foot planted, and one knee held at a 90 degree angle, participants were challenged to balance themselves on the one foot for as long as they could. The top three winners were Latoya Richardson, Counselor (5:05.05); Caroline Rogers, Counselor (3:59.84); and Kelly Wright, Job Readiness Training Associate (3:49.00).

Photo (left to right): Balance Challenge winners: Latoya Richardson, Caroline Rogers, Kelly Wright.

Project SEARCH interns clean up Spartanburg Medical Center

Hilary Wells, Project SEARCH Job Coach, coordinated a community service project with Project SEARCH interns for a “Hospital Beautification Day” on November 15, 2016 at Spartanburg Medical Center.

Photo, back row (left to right): Caroline Stafford; Spartanburg School District 6 Job Coach; Project SEARCH interns Jason West, Tyler Williams, Kwamell. Front row: Interns Evans Benaja Means, Ruriko Nakashima, Alazette Davis, Kimmie Lawless; Hilary Wells, VR Job Coach.

Poverty Simulator

The Spartanburg Area Office partnered with the Upstate Workforce Investment Board and Goodwill to facilitate a Poverty Simulator at the Middle Tyger campus of Spartanburg Community college on October 12. A facilitator led the group through a variety of scenarios in which participants had to find employment, transportation and many of the services that VR clients also require. This eye opening experience helped to increase awareness of the hurdles that individuals encounter when seeking employment.


Hispanic Alliance College Fair

Greenville Administrative Team Support Specialist Cindy Hernandez, Counselor Allen Cooper, Business Development Specialist Bernard Jones, and Job Coach Kerry Reece participated in the Hispanic Alliance College Fair at Greenville Technical College on November 15. This event featured workshops about the college application process, financial aid and scholarships, and vocational education opportunities.

Photo (left to right): Kerry Reece,  Job Coach; Cindy Hernandez, Administrative Team Support Specialist; Bernard Jones, Business Development Specialist.

Hiring event

Embassy Suites, WIS International, Allegiance Staffing, Kimco Services, Diversified Maintenance, Lake Murray Environmental, and Sam’s Club participated in a hiring event on November 16 which resulted in 8 VR clients receiving employment opportunities. This event was spearheaded by Vocational ACE LaMonica Woodruff.

Passport to Success

Staff participated in the annual Passport to Success on November 18. This event, sponsored by the Greenville County School District, provides high school seniors with resources to assist them with transitioning to successful employment, post secondary education, and independent community living upon graduation.

Photo (left to right): Keynote Speaker Rachel Wyatt, Miss South Carolina 2016 and Timothy Simpkin, High School/High Tech Transition Counselor.

VR Team gets muddy for good cause

Randy “Spider-man” Hogan, Oconee-Pickens Job Readiness Training Coordinator, climbs the ropes.
(Left to right): Jeff Pruett, Truck Driver; Stephanie Whitlock, Job Readiness Training Associate; Randy Hogan, Job Readiness Training Coordinator; Jeremy Hobbs, Transition Counselor.
(Left to right): Stephanie Whitlock, Job Readiness Training Associate; Jeremy Hobbs, Transition Counselor; and Jeff Pruett, Truck Driver; conquer the mud hill.

Oconee-Pickens staff participated in the Fourth Annual Collins Home Mud Run in August. Collins Children’s Home provides care to children and families through residential home care, counseling and family outreach.

Q Quotes

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.

— Rikki Rogers, author

Did you know...

...that the Barry Cooper Leadership award is dedicated to the legacy of leadership and service of the late Barry Cooper.

As an examiner with VR’s Disability Determination Services, Barry demonstrated exemplary adjudicative skills. As a supervisor, he remained a team player and served as a mentor to many new examiners. As a co-worker, he exhibited an unwavering positive attitude. Barry was a founding member of the South Carolina Association of Disability Evaluation Specialists.


December 2 - 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 843-774-3691
December 6 - Business Partnership Network Meeting.
  For more information, call 864-224-6391
December 7 - Silent Night Social. Come learn what services VR has to offer for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.
  For more information, call 843-248-2235
December 13 - Business Partnership Network Event.
  For more information, call 803-782-4239 or 866-206-5280
December 13 - Business Holiday Drop In.
  For more information, call 803-432-1068 or 866-206-5280

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.