Ed Bristol, Marketing Director, NCDVRS
Not that long ago, Graham resident Chris Simpson would shy away from shaking your hand, making eye contact or going out in public. Chris has social anxiety plus obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Last year, Chris’s life was at a particularly low point. With no work experience, he felt “terrified, afraid of getting older, of going through another day without a job.”
He’d lost his mother a few years before. After an accident, he’d lost his driver’s license. His emotional state resulted in “a lot” of drinking, he recalls.
His brother’s girlfriend urged him to contact the Burlington office of the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (or “VR”). The agency assists people with disabilities — like Chris’s OCD and a range of others — with finding jobs.
In May 2012, Chris became a VR client. He tested well in the evaluations but was still apprehensive about his prospects. His counselor, Ashley McKenna, was more optimistic.
“Ashley gave me an immediate boost of confidence.” Chris remembers. She took the time to talk at length with me via email, telephone and in person. She got to know who I am, my likes, dislikes and what I enjoyed doing in my private life. Every time I’d get down, she’d tell me: ‘I’m giving you 24 hours to get over this. Then it’s back to work.’”
Over the next nine months, Chris and Ashley would talk or e-mail weekly. There were plenty of disappointments. Jobs fell through that seemed like sure things. Then Chris’s fortunes took a turn.
“I was watching a movie at home, feeling really in the pits. Ashley calls and says ‘Do you want to work this week?’”
A company that produces a variety of imprinted items, Van’s Advertising in Burlington, had previously hired two VR referrals and were interested in Chris.
Ashley had arranged for the company to offer him a position through VR’s on-the-job training program. He immediately accepted and started work in February.
Al and Maxene Van Handel have come to rely on Chris more and more for handling customers. Recently Maxene was swamped and called Chris on his day off to come in and help. “He was so excited!”
“The people VR referred have filled a big gap in our business,” Maxene offers. “No company should miss out on the opportunity VR provides.”
“What happened after Chris’s first few weeks of work was amazing,” Ashley recalls. “In May, I ran into him at a networking event. He was speaking to everyone in the room — and shaking their hands!”
“Ashley kept my eye on the ball,” says Chris. “Thanks to people like Ashley, VR helps us believe in ourselves.”