Employment Stories

Erb Employer

Natalie and David Erb, owners of Erb Allstate Agency in Clinton received The Arc Tennessee's 2013 Inclusive Employer Award. After learning about the Supported Employment program at Emory Valley Center, the Erbs identified clerical tasks they were currently doing and with some accommodations created a new position for a person with a disability and hired Michele. Michele received training, skill development and job coaching. She has her own work space and her own business cards! Not only has Michele been an excellent fit for the position, she has also contributed to the overall culture of the work environment by bringing energy and enthusiasm to the office!  She adds value to the organization and improves moral.

Holiday Inn Employer

The Holiday Inn Nashville Vanderbilt hotel also received The Arc Tennessee's 2013 Inclusive Employer Award because it has been one of the leading Middle Tennessee businesses to support the growth of employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Through the leadership of Jeffrey O’Brien, they have hired three people with disabilities in the last two years into full-time, part-time and on-call positions. They support the educational job skills training of the Nashville Metro Schools Community Based Transitional Program. The hotel has also helped the students with resume and interviewing skills.

Bill Works

Bill, from The Arc Anderson County and Emory Valley Center in Oak Ridge, was recently recognized as Employee of the Month at Comfort Inn. This honor demonstrates that he is valued and respected by his co-workers and supervisor. Bill started his job with Comfort Inn on May 15th and his official title is Houseman Facilitator. He works 20 hours per week, usually four hours per day, five days per week. Bill keeps the lobby clean, keeps all stairwells clean and organized, vacuums the halls, dusts all the stairwells, keeps the elevator clean, keeps the parking lot clean, cleans conference rooms after meetings, cleans restrooms, cleans and checks the fire extinguishers and takes the garbage out. You can tell by the smile on his face he absolutely loves his job and is excited to go to work every day.

DeCarlos working

DeCarlos Alexander, age 26, has been working at The Arc Williamson County since July 2012. He comes in on Monday mornings to vacuum, take out the trash and do the shredding. DeCarlos says his favorite duty at The Arc is taking out the trash and that he works to make money so he can buy clothes and pay his mortgage. DeCarlos is also employed on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Goodwill assisting customers with taking items they are donating out of their car. DeCarlos has a strong work ethic and is very diligent about coming to work and doing a good job.

Gin working

Gin’s intellectual disability began at birth. Unfortunately, she was not born into a loving home but one filled with extreme abuse. When she was finally removed from that environment, she was placed in a foster care home that also turned out to be abusive. She was unhappy and miserable until, at the age of 18, she met her husband-to-be. After they dated for several months, he proposed to her. Wanting to remove her from her abusive foster home, he made arrangements for her to live with his grandmother until they married one year later. Her husband, who has cerebral palsy, was fortunate to have a loving family who was eager to accept Gin. With their loving support she blossomed into a beautiful woman. She had several goals, the first of which was to lose weight and get healthier. Her determination allowed her to lose almost 100 pounds. She began to feel truly happy with her life for the first time. Her second goal was to find a job in the community. Her mother-in-law assisted her in applying for Vocational Rehabilitation Services. After being made eligible in December of 2010, she chose to receive services through Sunshine Industries Supported Employment Program. During the assessment phase she demonstrated many employable skills, but her main barrier was that she was very shy and had trouble interacting with others. Her primary job interest was to work in the laundry field, a position that offered her routine tasks, a regular schedule and minimal interaction with others. Her laundry assessment took place at Salon Visage in Knoxville, Tennessee, an up-scale salon and spa. The supervisors were so impressed with her work that she was offered a position on the spot. She started working the next day. Gin was immediately brought under the wings of her supervisors and blossomed even more. Since this position requires a specific dress and appearance policy, services at the salon are extremely discounted for employees. Initially she was hesitant to try anything but finally, with encouragement from other employees; she began to take advantage of this benefit and had a make-over. Her new look was so impressive she was asked to model new haircuts and colors. Even though she is still shy, she now has more confidence in herself and communicates more openly with others. Gin has reached her goals and has never been happier!

Cheryl working

In 2004 Cheryl Coleman was living in Crossville but applied for a People Talking to People (PTP) surveyor position in Nashville with The Arc Tennessee. When the director of the program offered Cheryl the job she told her she had five days to one week to relocate and start training! She accepted the first job ever offered to her but quickly found herself homeless! She stayed at hotels and with friends for her first month in Nashville then applied for an apartment at Hagy Commons, a government subsidized housing unit. She lived there for six months then moved into a “regular” apartment. In 2006, PTP staff hours were lowered to about 10 or less a week so Cheryl sought additional employment and went to work for 25-30 hours at Flake Wilkerson, now called Market Strategies, making research calls for AT&T. They provided her with the necessary accommodations to be successful: a flex schedule, a large computer screen and some co-workers helped with transportation. Currently Cheryl still works the two part-time jobs with PTP and Market Strategies but her hours at Market Strategies have been cut to 10-15 hours per week. Cheryl said, “I make enough money to pay my bills. That is all that matters to me because I take pride in having a job. I gain self-respect because I can do something, not just sit around home and let the government take care of me. I like being independent.” Cheryl likes her co-workers at both jobs and likes the stability of having steady employment. She uses Access Ride and taxis for transportation to and from work. She stated she appreciates the support she has always received from co-workers at The Arc. Cheryl also now has a new love interest. She and John would never have met if she didn’t work for The Arc! She met him on the job! They are inseparable and proud to announce they are officially engaged! Co-workers and friends are helping them with wedding plans. “Nothing in my life has ever been easy,” said Cheryl, “but no hurdle has ever kept me down.”

Scott working

You can hardly utter the words ‘The Arc in Tennessee’ without having a vision of Scott Finney. Scott has been the face and voice of The Arc for 25 years, longer than any other employee! He is the first face you see when you enter our office and the first voice you hear when you call. His skills have always amazed me. He always arrives early (thanks to his parents who provide transportation to and from work) and joyously completes repetitive tasks such as labeling, applying postage, highlighting, alphabetizing, filing and scanning. He speaks to groups and makes presentations on self-advocacy. Throughout the years Scott has served on numerous boards and councils. He currently serves on STEP’s board of directors and the Advisory Group of the National Council of Self Advocates of The Arc. This year, in celebration of his dedication and service, he received the prestigious Roger Blue Lifetime Achievement Award. “Working provides me with an active social life I would not have without it. I like being around people and going to meetings and conferences. I look forward to coming to work and feel valued. I always encourage others with disabilities to go to employment fairs. Everyone who wants to work should have a job,” said Scott.

Mary jane

Mary Jane Matthews worked at Taco Bell in Columbia for over 14 years. She loved having a job, earning money and being an independent [as possible] productive member of her community. Her duties consisted of sweeping the lobby, keeping the napkin holders and lid containers full, and wiping the tables and trays. She completed most of her job duties independently but sometimes if it was something she didn’t really like to do, she would get reminders and encouragement from co-workers and staff. She made many friends with “regulars” but one gentleman named Wayne really stood out to Mary because his dad’s birthday was a day apart from hers. Wayne always made Mary’s birthday very special by having the customers and fellow employees stop what they were doing and sing Happy Birthday to her. He always brought her a little cake or a pack of cupcakes. Smiling Mary was also often rewarded with small tips of $1 to $5. But one day a young man was quite impressed with the job she was doing and, with appropriate permission, tipped her $100!! Mary was ecstatic! She took that tip and purchased an Easter outfit! Mary loved to spend her paychecks! She used her money for vacations and shopping. Her favorite vacation site was the Smokey Mountains. She especially enjoyed Dollywood, the Cherokee Reservation and shopping for clothes at the Outlet Malls. She liked the shows and loved to eat at different restaurants in Pigeon Forge. Mary’s job was a tremendous part of her life. She loved getting ready to go to work and would always make sure her clothes were clean and that all of her pins were on her hat and shirt. She had an inner sense of pride when it came to her work. She never wanted to be late and would always start work immediately upon arrival. She worked very hard. Mary loved her job, she loved the friends she made there and she loved her co-workers. Mary passed away September 13, 2013 at age 65. She is missed by many, many people.