CUSTOMER SUCCESS STORIES

 

Customers of:

  • Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (BSBP), formerly known as the Michigan Commission for the Blind (MCB)
  • Michigan Rehabilitation Services (MRS)

Stories listed by counties of residence:

 ALLEGAN 
BARRY   
 MONROE 
 
 
 

 


 

 



 

 

ALLEGAN COUNTY

Iesha Blanchard (Plainwell)

Iesha, with her three daughters, came to the Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI) in October 2006, with a traumatic brain injury dating back to 1996. After seeing so many doctors and therapists and spending time in group homes, “Iesha gave up on life, and dropped out of high school,” reports her mother Shirley. Shirley further states that a doctor told her that Iesha and her children would need continuous family support for the rest of her life.

 With the encouragement and support of her mother, Iesha moved to the Pine Lake Family Center at MCTI. The family center is adjacent to the campus and has housing and daycare facilities. Though her family continued to be very supportive, Iesha had to learn about “real life” while attending MCTI. She admits to wondering how she was going to do this. There were some significant challenges during the time Iesha attended MCTI. However, the magnitude of her success dims the memory of those challenges. After participating in the MCTI Reading Clinic and other pre-vocational programs, Iesha completed the Certified Nursing Assistant training at MCTI in July 2007. Amazingly, she also attended the adult education program housed at MCTI, and was able to get her high school diploma from Delton-Kellogg Schools during that same time.

Iesha had a job waiting for her upon her graduation at the Life Care Center in Plainwell. She relocated to the area, lives with her three girls and continues in her employment.

 

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Mike Stieve (Plainwell)

Mike started with MRS in August of 2001 at the Mid-Michigan District Office. He had to overcome many obstacles while working toward his goal of obtaining employment. In addition to overcoming his substance abuse addiction, Mike rode his bike over 18 miles round trip to come to the Midland Michigan Works! Center to work with the Literacy Council representative on improving his math skills. He did this so he would be better prepared for classes at Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI). While at MCTI, Mike received a Perfect Attendance Award, Tour Guide Award, six Hall Senate Offer Awards, and six Academic Achievement Awards.

Mike is now successfully employed full-time in southwest Michigan and earning a competitive salary at a company called Computer Products and Resources.

 

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BARRY COUNTY

Tim Hassett (Johnston Township)

Tim was a Navy veteran who came to the Kalamazoo MRS office with early-onset and severe rheumatoid arthritis as well as issues with substance addiction.

He was requesting tuition assistance at Western Michigan University toward his B.S. degree in Aviation Administration. MRS assisted with the unmet need in tuition and books, some transportation, clothing and tools for work.  Because of his exemplary work during his rehabilitation, Tim was able to work toward gaining his current employment. This was a Social Security case and MRS recovered about $28,000 from Social Security. Tim is now a supervisor of 6 employees and is making over $40,000 a year.

     

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BRANCH COUNTY

Deb Hoover (Branch County)  

Deb came to MRS in May 2005 with multiple disabilities and a stressful living environment.

She was homeless, living in a tent, and having a hard time finding a job. Her life began to change when she was referred to Michigan Career and Technical Institute (MCTI). 

To brush up on her learning and computer skills, Deb began in MCTI’s then titled Advanced Career Education program. She also attended the Business Support program receiving a Graduate Honors Award at her graduation in July 2007. 

Deb took part in student leadership opportunities at MCTI as Hall Senate Representative and Secretary. She worked as an aide in the school’s library/media room. Deb was able to attend regular counseling sessions and received additional support from MCTI Health Services staff. She was committed to her job search and became an active participant in placement services receiving assistance with relocation and transportation for employment.

Deb now has her own apartment and has worked for almost a year as a Customer Service Representative for Peckham Incorporated. She reports receiving two raises and has been asked about becoming a supervisor.

 

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CALHOUN COUNTY

Deborah Brenner (Battle Creek)  

“I was having a hard time finding employment due to disability. I was feeling low and very rejected while seeking employment. I have many job skills, but when potential employers saw my disability they stopped seeing me!

Eventually, I was referred to the local MRS office in Battle Creek. I wanted to gather knowledge about applying for jobs as a disabled woman and learn how to cope with rejection, while looking for accessible housing and transportation.

During my experiences with MRS, the “Job Availability” class was so important for my life. It is an outstanding and helpful class; it helped me with my confidence.

I was given all the tools I need to function as a disabled woman. I was given the incentive to help others that are like me. I started volunteering at the Disability Resource Center and was named 2007 VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR!

MRS has enriched my life and helped me to be a more compassionate person and advocate for people with disabilities. I also work as a volunteer for our local Senior Center and advocate for the seniors - very rewarding jobs!”             

-Submitted by Deborah Brenner

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CHARLEVOIX COUNTY

Anneke Rader (Boyne City)

“While attending North Central Michigan College in Petoskey, MI I found out about MRS through the college.

I was not sure where I was going with my education or degree. My counselor at the Gaylord MRS office helped me figure it out.

One of the things I needed was someone to help me to be able to find a job after I graduated from college. My MRS counselor helped me find a job and gave me encouraging words when I was not finding a job easily.

I hope you always keep in mind the importance of helpful organizations like MRS. If organizations like these were cut, I’m sure there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t know where to go for help in seeking employment.

I also want to thank my counselor and the others who helped me find a job. They helped me stay positive when, at times, it was hard.”                   

-Submitted by Anneke Rader

   

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CHEBOYGAN COUNTY

Rick Velfing (Cheboygan)

“I’m so thankful to MRS and the Cheboygan District Office; they helped me get a modified van so I could find and get employment. It was very hard getting a job when I had no form of transportation. It was a real challenge to find out that the bus system wasn't going to work for me. That was one of the hurdles I had to overcome. 

This is where my wife comes in. I have to thank her as much as I've thanked MRS - for running me everywhere & picking me up. The position you helped me get at the Cheboygan Walmart Vision Department has made all the difference in my life. I have been accepted back into the workforce with open arms.

A special thank you goes to my department supervisor, who has been very patient with me. The Walmart store manager is always there with a smile and a ‘hello’ to make me feel at home. Thanks also to my friend and associate, who would show me the same things twenty times, if that's what it took for me to understand!

It can't always be easy working with people that need so much to get back into the workforce.  Thank God there are programs out there and people like you to help others.”

-Submitted By Rick Velfing

                                                                       

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CHIPPEWA COUNTY

Larry Warner (Sault Ste. Marie)

Larry injured himself at work after 17 years of employment as a general operations manager with the American/Canadian Lock Tours in Sault Ste. Marie. This husband and father of three was suddenly unable to per­form the heavy physical labor required for his job.

His MRS counselor in the Sault Ste. Marie office helped him explore other career options, resulting in his journey toward a degree as a secondary teacher. It was a challenge to enroll in college as a mature student with classmates nearly half his age, but he had a powerful goal.

MRS, along with federal financial assistance, provided Larry with the means to complete several years at Lake Superior State Uni­versity. He attended class while working part-time to help sup­port his family.

Larry was referred to the local Michigan Works! office. His counselor determined that completion of his teaching de­gree would be the best avenue to financial independence for him and his family. She provided Larry with assistance through the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). He successfully earned his Bachelor’s Degree and complet­ed his student teaching. With his new credentials in hand, he was fortunate to receive an offer for full-time employment as a social studies teacher at nearby Pickford Public Schools. Warner remarked that he has been "enjoying every minute of being back to work." One of his students commented to him, "You really like being here with us, don't you?" It made his day.

Michigan Works! congratulates Larry Warner for his persever­ance in overcoming his obstacles and entering a rewarding new career that provides for his family.

                                                      

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GENESEE COUNTY

Carolyn Houston (Flint)                      

Carolyn is currently working full-time at Sam's Club as a product demonstrator, and there have been days when she has sold more of her product than anyone at any other member store nationwide for that day. When she began working part-time at Sam's Club, she worried that her vision loss might limit her ability to work.

 

MCB assisted her by providing computer screen text enlargement software, glasses, and computer training, which helped her to maintain her employment and transition into full-time work. Due to her skills, hard work, accomplishments, and outgoing personality, Carolyn has maintained her employment and is now an experienced and valued employee at the store.

 

In December 2005, she received a MCB 2005 Achievement Honor Roll Award. These awards are presented annually to clients of MCB who have been selected for their excellence in achieving their goals for employment and/or independent living.

            

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EATON COUNTY

Eric Sanders (Woodland)

Eric came to the MRS Lansing District Office in 2000 as a high school junior who already knew his vocational plans and aspirations. He wanted to work in the technological field. Being a teenager with Cerebral Palsy, Eric was living at home with his parents, and depended on them for transportation, financial assistance, and daily living needs. His main objective was to become independent, and he planned to do this by finding a job that could support him.

Eric's MRS counselor referred him to MCTI, where he began his certification in Computer Office Automation. He initially had problems with math while at MCTI, upon which his counselor referred him to a learning specialist who was able to help Eric overcome these difficulties. Eventually, Eric graduated with honors from MCTI, along with National A+ Certification in computer repair. Job developers assisted Eric with creating his resume, evaluating and increasing his typing speeds, and acquiring the skills necessary to be employable.

 

Today, Eric is working at Peckam Vocational Industries at the Call Center in a full-time capacity with benefits. Eric has purchased a car and hand controls to suit his needs. He has also moved out of his parent’s home and is now living independently.

 

Eric states, "Without MRS, I wouldn't have my independence...my counselor was my guardian angel and helped me find the right direction in life.”

                                                            

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INGHAM COUNTY

Alicia Paterni (Lansing)

 

"I learned about MRS through staff at my high schoolI had just graduated from high school during the summer of 2000, and was preparing to begin college in Traverse City at Northwestern Michigan College during the Fall of 2000.

When I first came to the Gaylord MRS District Office, I was looking for help with getting the appropriate accommodations in a new city and new school system, as well as money to help pay for my education.

I received my Associates Degree in Arts in 2003 and my Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work in 2005. While in college, the support I had from my MRS counselor was excellent! She was always there when I needed her and even came to me when we needed to have meetings.  

It is so hard to find good counselors these days; I wish more counselors were like the one I had. She is caring, understanding, practical, and she did not set any limitations on me just because I had a disability (double amputee below the knee). I greatly appreciated that. We also developed a friendship throughout the years of working together. I always knew that I could call my counselor if I ever found myself in a situation where I was unsure of what to do.”

-Submitted by Alicia Paterni

  

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Diana Schmitthausler (Lansing)        

At first, Diana was skeptical of how much she could accomplish as a person with impaired vision. When she first started with the MCB Independent Living Program, she worked with an MCB rehabilitation teacher in her home and became proficient at labeling clothing and food packages, as well as cooking simple meals.

Eventually she agreed to try the residential MCB Training Center "only for one week - no more!" She changed her mind and stayed from September to Christmas break. When she returned home, Diana was once again an active member of her community. She goes to the local gym and enjoys bowling. She gardens, paints ceramics, does macramé, and volunteers at the Michigan Rehabilitation Council.

When asked what surprised her the most about the whole adjustment process to being blind, she responded by saying, "I never thought I'd get out like other people, have a good time, and go bowling again." She is considering using her craft talents to start a business selling her works through a microenterprise business.

 

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Marcus Turner (Lansing)

Even as an adult, Marcus can recall feeling different than other children in elementary school. It wasn't until high school, however, that he was diagnosed with dyslexia.  Marcus was always frustrated in school, having to read materials several times before he understood them.  He recalls feeling "stupid" and didn't know what he was going to do after he graduated from high school.

In 1996, as a high school junior in Lansing, Marcus was told by the faculty at his school that he was not "college material", due to his disability.  Shortly thereafter, he met his MRS counselor. Marcus stated that while his school did not believe in him, his MRS Counselor at the Lansing office did. With belief in himself and support from his counselor, Marcus attended Alabama A&M University, earning a major in Sociology and a minor in Criminal Justice. He was also able to balance academia with athletics, and played football for some time! His counselor assisted Marcus with college necessities such as tuition, supplies, and books.

 

Upon graduation, Marcus was referred by his counselor to a job developer who was able to help him create an effective resume and cover letter, as well as assist him in locating a job that suited his interests, skills, and abilities. Marcus has been employed for over two years as a Corrections Officer within the State of Michigan.

                                                             

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KALAMAZOO COUNTY

Janet Thurman (Kalamazoo)

Janet came to MRS in August 2004, a long-term poly-substance abuser. Committed to changing her life, she worked closely with her Veteran’s Administration (VA) counselor and MRS to make that happen.

Janet served honorably in the army for five years and it was there that she developed a strong desire to be a chef. In response to that desire, MRS referred her to the MCTI for the Culinary Arts training program. While at MCTI, Janet excelled in her training program. She became a student leader serving as President of the MCTI Veterans League, residence hall president, student court justice, and student mentor.

She was supported in her training goals with regular counseling assistance at MCTI and active participation in a 12-step recovery program. She was also given assistance with relocation and transportation of r employment. Janet graduated from MCTI in November 2006 with honors, and as a result of the MCTI Culinary Programs active Business Advisory Committee and community participation in “Seven Courses of Gold,” she immediately began work at R. Stanley’s restaurant in Kalamazoo. Janet was given a raise and promoted to Sous Chef two weeks later.

                                           

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Patricia Wagner (Portage)               

At age 74, Patricia has achieved a high level of independence through her own hard work and help from the MCB Independent Living Program. She's learned to use Braille for reading and labeling, an electronic device that identifies canned goods by scanning the bar codes, an electronic talking color identifier for clothing and other items, a talking microwave oven, a digital voice recorder for appointments and notes, and a computer with JAWS talking screen-reader software to use e-mail and the Internet.

She is currently attending the residential MCB Training Center to improve her orientation and mobility skills (including using a cane, finding her way indoors and outdoors, using public transportation, and related skills). She is an active member of the local visually impaired seniors' support group and a member of the board of directors of the Michigan Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired. She also participates in fundraising activities for the Kalamazoo Junior Symphony.

             

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KENT COUNTY

Mark Loucks (Cedar Springs)    

“I first heard about MRS in 1985. After being in the work force for 10 years, I went back to school at Ferris State University. I had a hard time hearing the instructor, so Ferris recommended I check out MRS for help.

My MRS counselor at the Grand Rapids office helped me get my hearing aides and also assisted with finding a new job. I’m grateful to MRS for the help with the hearing aids and also help in starting a new business. Most banks and other people would not have even given me the chance.

My business is called “Campmasters” and my patented product is the “The Smokey Pokey”. It’s a campfire poker that also can be used as a hiking stick, camping tent stake puller and small boat gaff. 

I want to encourage people to not disregard us (people with disabilities) because we have a disability. With help from MRS and others in the community, we can learn to help ourselves and also help others like us. Great job MRS!”

-Submitted by Mark Loucks

                                        

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James Hawkins (Walker)

James was a past customer of MRS. He came to the Grand Rapids MRS office, since he was let go from a job due to disability related issues. He was a clerk at a dry cleaning place. He couldn't stay awake on the job. He had a physical problem which made it difficult for him to sleep through the night and he had some issues with depression.

He was referred to Network 180 for depression and we began a discussion of his work attributes to determine suitable employment. Janitor and laundry were two areas that we discussed. He would be able to have enough movement and have enough flexibility with breaks to get a cup of coffee or regroup.

He was then referred to job developer of his choice and was able to find employment at a part time janitorial place. The job developer helped Jim organize his job search and provided him useful job leads.

Follow up was also provided by the job developer to talk with Jim especially at the beginning of the job to make sure he didn't have problems on the job. He was able to keep the job and his case was closed after 90 days.

 

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LENAWEE COUNTY

Russ Millett (Onsted)

Rehabilitation Services Assists with Start-Up
Onsted Man Helps Save History with New Business

After serving as a corporate sales representative and customer service technician for Kodak for 13 years, you’re laid off. Businesses have stopped using film because of digital technology, and so Kodak must reduce its sales force.

You live in Onsted, a rural area of Michigan with no job opportunities in your field of expertise. So, what do you do now?

For Russ Millett, it was almost a no-brainer: Start your own business of digitalizing old photographs and slides to help corporations, universities, and foundations save their history. He calls the business “FineArt4 Imaging Systems, LLC.”

I sold the technology and I trained in it,” he says. It’s what I know and what I’m good at. I love history, and our service is a service that will preserve history.”

Russ explains that he and his wife, Jill, scan existing photos and slides and place them on compact disks – photos and slides that otherwise would disintegrate over time.

Because Russ has a condition called audio dyslexia, which makes it difficult for him to communicate in writing, he was eligible for employment assistance from MRS. In early 2005, Russ teamed up with Tim Guest, a counselor at MRS’s Adrian office, and from there was assisted in writing a business plan that helped him win approval of a $40,000 bank loan.”

(Article published in DLEG’s Michigan LEGwork Newsletter)

**To visit the FineArt4 Imaging Systems, LLC web site, go to:

                                                                  

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MACOMB COUNTY

Nichole Nevorski (Chesterfield Township) 

Nichole is a senior at Central Michigan University majoring in chemistry.  Her name has regularly appeared on the dean's list, and in spring of 2007 she earned a 4.0 grade point average.  She was recognized for her personal initiative, success, improvement, and academic performance.  In July 2007 the American Chemical Society selected her from a national pool of nominees to receive its Overcoming Challenges Award.  She will receive a plaque, a $250 monetary award, and up to $1,000 to cover travel expenses to the award ceremony in Boston.

Nichole is legally blind, diagnosed with Stargardt's disease as an adolescent.  Her class assignments require a great deal of reading, often from library reference volumes with very small print.  MCB provided her with adaptive devices and training, which allow her to read her assignments more efficiently and independently.

She currently works on fuel technology projects for the U.S. Army's Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center as a co-op chemist.  She will receive her bachelor's degree in chemistry at Central Michigan University's commencement ceremony in May 2008.

 

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MARQUETTE COUNTY

Colin Van (Gwinn)

In the spring of 2000, Colin applied for assistance from the MRS in Marquette. Colin presented with multiple disabilities, a history with the legal system and an erratic employment record. Although he could get jobs, he could not seem to keep them.

MRS worked closely with Colin and provided counseling and job development services. Over the next three years, he became a father to twin girls, which was life altering and provided Colin with the motivation to make permanent change. It was important to Colin that his children have a father on whom they could depend.

After additional vocational guidance and counseling, Colin entered the two-year Culinary Arts Program at Northern Michigan University. With a great deal of fear and apprehension, he began his training program. Some of the classes were very difficult for him. He asked for and received tutoring and became increasingly motivated to reach his goals. Upon graduation from NMU, he was happy to be employed full-time and able to provide for himself and his children.

After his case was closed, Colin continued to meet with MRS staff members. He was appreciative of the support this agency provided and wanted to return that support to others and give something back to the community. Colin began to volunteer and was hired at the local independent living center, Superior Alliance for Independent Living. His life history, his enthusiasm, and his belief in people with disabilities have made him a powerful advocate. He attributes a large part of his success to MRS staff and the example they set.

Today, Colin is in a much better place. As he says, "The light I see at the end of the tunnel is no longer a freight train." 

                                                                      

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MONROE COUNTY

Pat Elsholz (Dundee)

In a letter to MRS:

“I am writing to let you know about the excellent assistance I received from the people who worked with me at Michigan Rehab. I want to commend these hard workers.

One of these individuals tried very hard and was successful in placing me in a non-traditional job as a part-time organist. He made many calls to me to check on my progress both before and after my job placement. He did an excellent job, which I really appreciated.

All 3 staff members who worked with me were kind and professional.”

Sincerely,
Pat Elsholz

_________________________________________________________________________

Pat came to the Monroe MRS office in June 2006 very anxious about finding work; she had not worked since 1992. In the past, she had worked as an R.N from 1973-1992, leaving because it was too stressful. Since then, she explained she had really tried to find part-time work but had been unsuccessful. She was reassured that her Social Security would not be cut off; also, she learned how the earnings would affect her benefits. Patricia had a great deal of uncertainty about what she wanted to do in a job. She worked together with her counselor on identifying job possibilities. Pat decided to pursue working as an organist part-time. With assistance from her counselor, she was successful in finding a part-time organist position. She is happy and delighted to be working again, enjoying organ playing and being able to deal with the stress that the position produces.

-From MRS Counselor

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MUSKEGON COUNTY

Brucina Mayfield (Muskegon)

Brucina was a customer in the West Central District Muskegon office. She has paraplegia, a result of a result of an auto accident in 1997, just four days after her wedding. She came to MRS in May of 2004 and participated in the Ticket to Work Workshop. A plan was written for a position as a clerical or administrative support staff person, as she had experience in this area. She was referred for job search assistance and spent months trying to find the right job for her. She tried for a number of opportunities and then applied for a job through HGA, to be a Ticket to Work Specialist on site at the Muskegon MRS office.

She had an amazing interview, impressing the interviewers with her motivation, interest and interpersonal skills. She was hired and began working part time in July 2005. She has done an excellent job, providing Ticket to Work Workshops, follow up services, one on one SSA problem resolution services, and serving as a role model for other SSA recipients throughout the West central District's ten counties. She moved to full time and completed ETS training in order to expand her services into job development activities for SSA customers. She has proven to be an inspiration to us all.

In February of 2007 she participated in a national summit in Atlanta Georgia, to study the Ticket to Work program. She was chosen to represent Michigan out of 300 applicants. She was one of 50 delegates who spoke to politicians, SSA and other agency representatives. She was the only Ticket To Work Specialist at the summit, and one of only a few delegates who had previously received SSA benefits. As a result of this experience, Brucina continues to serve on a national committee that will continue the advocacy, which began at the summit. All of this was followed up with a very prominent front-page story in The Muskegon Chronicle in March, which outlines her history and accomplishments to date – a very inspiring story.

(Read more from Brucina’s article online at:)

 

                                                       

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OAKLAND COUNTY

Patricia Lewis (Southfield)

"I found out about MRS through a treatment center I was blessed to be a part ofI had just put the drugs down and I had a big void and was scared I’d fail. I had no self esteem or self worth. In 1991, my MRS counselor tried to help and I failed. Was I really ready this time? When another counselor began to work with me, I learned that when you are willing, there is no end to what you can do.

I really didn’t know what I was looking for when I came to MRS. I knew I was going through this difficult time - and not quitting, which is what I was used to doing. I knew I wanted - and deserved - something better than before. 

MRS has helped me to further my education and training, which has made me more enjoyable and allowed me to be productive. All of my experiences with MRS have been positive. I wouldn’t change a thing. They helped to give me my life back.

When you feel all hope is lost… when you have no self-esteem or self-worth… a team of strangers become friends and a major part of your life. They give you what you’ve been looking for and so much more. You walk in the door as “Mrs. Broken and Rebuilding”. Saving the work they do must continue. Please keep finding and allowing these human angels to do for us what we can’t do alone.”

-Submitted by Patricia Lewis

 

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OTTAWA COUNTY

Jose Moreno (Holland)                    

Jose, who is both deaf and blind, is successfully employed in the career of his choice at Great Lakes Woods in Holland.

He became a client of MCB while in his junior year of high school.  MCB staff provided services and funding to help him attend summer training at the Helen Keller National Center for the Deaf/Blind and successfully complete high school. During that time, he was recognized by the mayor of Holland for his volunteer work and was honored as a model citizen. He then attended a nine-month program at Northern Illinois University and completed training at the MCB Training Center in Kalamazoo. He was accepted into the cabinetmaking program at Michigan Career and Technical Institute in Plainwell - the first DeafBlind student to enroll. Within four months of graduation, he interviewed for a job with Great Lakes Woods in Holland, and he was immediately offered a job.

He is highly regarded by his employer and co-workers, and he has earned several raises during his employment. In December of 2005, he received a Michigan Commission for the Blind 2005 Achievement Honor Roll Award. These awards are presented annually to clients of the Michigan Commission for the Blind who have been selected for their excellence in achieving their goals for employment and/or independent living.

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Steve Szymanski (Algonac)

Steve was referred for Transition services to the Port Huron MRS office and opened his case on 11/19/04.  He was interested in working on the Freighters, as a Merchant Marine, since he grew up in Algonac near the water, always watching the boats and freighters.  Seeing that Steve was serious about his goal (to become a Merchant Marine), MRS set out to obtain information.  MRS met with the Seafarers International Union, to review the Application process and to obtain information about the Apprenticeship program for Steve.  It took about a year and a half for Steve to complete all of the necessary paperwork and to obtain the necessary documents (passports, pictures, licenses, etc) required for his application.  MRS assisted him whenever possible, providing ongoing support and encouragement and direct intervention when necessary (applications, paperwork, etc). 

In 2006, Steve completed the Application Booklet and was accepted into the program.  He set out for his training, which was based at Paul Hall Center in Piney Point, Maryland through the Seafarer’s International Union.  Paul Hall Center provides Maritime Training and Education, license preparation and academic supports for students. Although Steve received a small wage in the beginning of his training, MRS provided assistance in the way of supportive services, so that he could not only participate but also be successful in the training. 

With his case closed since 2006, Steve reports that he is still working on the Freighters and is now considered an AB Watchman (AB means Able Bodied).  He loves his job and will continue his career (both employment and continuing education) with the Seafarer’s Union.

 

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WASHTENAW COUNTY

Julian Early (Chelsea)

Julian was referred to the Ann Arbor MRS Office in August of 2006 by the local Community Mental Health Agency. He was in need of Supported Employment, meaning that he needed an ongoing job coach in order to maintain a job. Julian is cognitively impaired, and lives in the St. Louis School in Chelsea, Michigan. He is 46 years old. Julian can do repetitive tasks which do not require a lot of steps to complete the task. He works best in a fairly routine and structured environment where he does not have to do a lot of independent decision making. Julian is a dependable worker, but he definitely cannot present himself well to employers and he does not have the organizational skills to carry out a successful job search.

Through MRS, Julian was able to more clearly focus on the type of work that he wanted to do; he chose a provider agency to do job development and the initial job coaching. Through the agency, Services To Enhance Potential (STEP), Julian was able to do a job tryout at Chelsea Hospital. Julian cleans in the kitchen and dining room as well as taking care of vending machines and working in the dish room. Julian is very shy with co-workers and supervisors and consequently does not ask very many questions about job tasks. With the support of a job coach funded by MRS, Julian was able to master the tasks of the job and to get comfortable with the routines.

Julian is continuing to do a good job, and he is a valued employee at the Chelsea Hospital. The hospital has since undertaken several job tryouts with other MRS customers to fill similar positions at the hospital. Julian has been working at the hospital since October 11, 2006 and is a permanent employee, making $9.85 an hour.

                                                                  

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WAYNE COUNTY

Michael Reese (Canton)                 

Michael is currently employed as an information technology specialist (computer programmer) for the Internal Revenue Service. He came to the MCB for training in skills of deafblindness in order to continue his current employment. Throughout his training in the MCB Vocational Rehabilitation Program, he has maintained his determination, sense of humor, and positive attitude even as deteriorating vision and hearing threatened his livelihood.

He attended the residential MCB Training Center in Kalamazoo for five weeks to improve his Braille literacy, orientation and mobility, and computer skills, and his rapid progress constantly challenged his instructors to keep providing more advanced material. He has continued with correspondence through classes through the Hadley School for the Blind, including calculus “for fun”, and in the future he would like to teach mathematics courses for Hadley in addition to his job with the IRS.

              

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Mamie Lousia Moore (Detroit)       

Mamie was a professional seamstress until she lost her vision due to glaucoma; she thought she would never sew again. Last year, Mamie met with a counselor from MCB and received instruction in mobility and using a white cane. She attended a week-long MCB "Mini Adjustment Seminar" to begin learning skills of blindness, and then enrolled at the MCB Training Center in Kalamazoo for eight months. At the center, she excelled in Braille, adaptive cooking skills, and computers, and she also learned adaptive techniques for sewing without vision.

 

Since returning home in May with her new skills, she is living independently in her home and community, and she has returned to sewing. In fact, she hopes to establish a business based on her sewing, making handcrafted aromatherapy bags.

 

In December 2005, Mamie received a Michigan Commission for the Blind 2005 Achievement Honor Roll Award. These awards are presented annually to clients of the MCB who have been selected for their excellence in achieving their goals for employment and/or independent living.       

 

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Kathy Ann Hatcher (Inkster)

"I received notice that you sent me regarding the closing of my case. I just want to thank you for sticking by me, supporting me and believing in me. Remember when you told me that I needed to work on that self-esteem? Well, the residents here hold me in such regard that I can’t help feel that I am needed. I am not saying that I am all the way there yet, but I feel that I am growing more confident day by day.

I decided to take the health insurance here and I can keep the same doctor so that is a relief. I truly feel that the advice you gave me is one of the reasons that I am where I am today. I was blessed to have you as my counselor and I promise that I will not disappoint you.

Again, thank you so much and remember, you haven’t heard the last from me.”

-Submitted by Kathy Ann Hatcher

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Ms. Hatcher came to the MRS Wayne Office as an individual who had not worked for at least 10 years.   She had a Bachelors Degree in Social Work and Gerontology.   She was an SSDI recipient who desperately wanted to return to work.   She was provided with psychological testing and a vocational evaluation. I believe what really helped her self-esteem was our meetings where we discussed employment strategies, how to handle rejection and lots of encouragement. Her counselors helped her develop her resume and supplied her with a number of job leads. End result, she found this wonderful 20 hour a week job earning $17 per hour with benefits. The job is convenient as she can see if from her back yard. She is happy, the residents love her, and she has started going to trainings related to her field.                                    

-Submitted by MRS Counselor

 

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Ryan Notebaert (Plymouth)

“My name is Ryan Notebaert. I have been working very hard in the last 5 years to make as many accomplishments I can in my life. I suffer from a closed head injury and several physical complications. I was instructed to sign up at Michigan Works! for help with finding a job.

About 3 years ago, I was introduced to my counselor at the MRS Livonia Office. He instructed me that he was there to help. He and I sat together and had several discussions of what we were going to do. I chose to enroll in an education program that allowed me to learn about electricity. I became a certified electrician. I needed to talk to someone about some activities that were going on in my life. My counselor found the time to offer me some suggestions and it was up to me to apply them, which I chose to do. In a short time, I was receiving funds to help pay some bills and to allow me to stay focused on my education.

My MRS counselor has been an awesome influence in my life. He has always been willing to take the time to listen. I believe that as long as an individual is willing to follow directions, the program works. He has helped me buy a car so I can get to and from school, while also keeping tabs on how things are going. Recently, my counselor encouraged me to take some tests and get my name on lists. I ended up following his suggestions and once again I am now in a great position in my life. 

I am very thankful that I was offered the assistance I received and even more thankful for my counselor. I am very happy now and continue to be happy. I always think of how tough it was and when the door opened with this kind gentleman behind it saying, “Come on in – what can we do for you today?” I smile big and just remember to keep plugging away.”

-Submitted by Ryan Notebaert

     

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Dr. Ruta Sharangpani (Plymouth)     

Ruta became a client of MCB in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program when she was in high school. MCB provided training in skills of blindness and personal adjustment. She also attended the MCB College Prep Program at the MCB Training Center in Kalamazoo. After graduating from high school, she earned a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in Biology, graduating as one of the top students in her class.

Her vocational goal was to be a physician. She went to medical school at Wayne State University, where she earned her MD degree with a specialty in internal medicine. She was employed at the Detroit Medical Center as an internist, and she is currently pursuing a master's degree in public health. Her goal is to work in the public health field.             

 

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Jeff Fleshner (Taylor)

“In 2001, I was a healthy 41 year old self- employed carpenter working out of Livonia, Michigan. At one point, I developed the most incredible pain in my left knee. It turned out that I had contracted the most deadly “Flesh Eating Disease”. They had to amputate my entire left leg and part of the tissue on my left side to save my life.

During my hospital rehab, I was introduced to MRS and the opportunity to move toward getting back to work. The day after I was released from the hospital, I had an appointment with a counselor at the Taylor MRS office. I told them that I wanted to go to college and learn computers; I was enrolled in Wayne County Community College (WCCC) that same day. I spent four years at WCCC earning two Associates Degrees and also working as a student employee. After graduating in 2005, it was time to enter back into the working world.

I began applying for jobs online, but seemed to be getting nowhere. A relative suggested that I go back to MRS and ask for more assistance. I took her advice and rejoined MRS in the Livonia office. These were some of the most professional, caring and innovative people I have ever worked with. Even though I thought that I did not need help - I just needed a job - I started taking advantage of what they offered. 

Through working together with my caseworker and my MRS counselor, I was able to apply and interview for the great job I now have at Madonna University.

I have not been this happy in a very, very long time. I love my job, I love what I do and I love the people that I work with. I am so grateful to people at the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth - Rehabilitation Services. They fine tuned the job search skills I had and helped keep me focused. I feel privileged to live and work in Michigan.”      

-Submitted by Jeff Fleshner