Customer Story: Chris
When RCO's Personal Agent, Racheal Anderson, first met Chris, she saw his potential. “I encouraged Chris for years, regarding community employment. We discussed job options, and did problem-solving, and I supported him with accessing vocational rehabilitation services,” she says. “Change can be hard, but once he developed his confidence, he was ready to step out of his comfort zone, and it's really paid off.”
RCO was paying for services for Chris to attend sheltered employment and learn job skills, after a traumatic brain injury that caused some memory issues for him. Chris has since moved from sheltered employment to community integrated employment at a job he loves. Vitro is a large architectural glass company that produces high quality products, and promotes a family atmosphere, safety, and environmental awareness. Jay Schilawski, Coater Engineer at Vitro Architectural Glass, says the company is glad to have Chris as a team member.
“Chris does a fantastic job recycling materials and cleaning throughout our plant. Never complains. He always arrives about a half hour early. He does not want to be late. He arrives with a smile on his face and a greeting to anyone he sees, anxious to go to work. He is respected and liked by all here in the plant, and offers his help if he sees someone cleaning, or just needing a hand with something.”
The position was created specifically for Chris when a job developer at Vocational Rehab saw a need and talked to the company about it. “(Sheltered Employment) helped me get a good start but you have to expand your horizons,” Chris says, with new confidence. “Before I came to Vitro, the other workers all had to take turns doing my job. Now they can all go back to their own work,” says Chris, with pride. Although he works 24 hours a week now, he loves his job so much that he is eager to work more, when the opportunity arises.
RCO arranged for a job coach for about a year. One of Chris’s primary objectives was learning to communicate with his supervisors. “We built a mountain of trust,” says his Personal Support Worker (PSW), Denise. “He has always been helpful and kind, but he learned how to stand up for himself, too. He learned it's okay to ask questions, to ask for support. He's so confident now. He's an amazing young man!” One of the tools Chris uses now is written task lists, daily, weekly, and monthly checklists, and asking for tasks to be written down. “It takes me a while to get used to something new,” he explains. “I write down dates and times, and keep a checklist. After it gets into my mind, I don't need it as much.”
Racheal emphasizes the importance of teamwork with Chris's support system, between his Personal Agent, PSW, family, and supervisor. “It's always about Chris, what he wants, and what support we can give him to help him be successful. We keep his mom in the loop, she's an important part of the team.”
Consistency is also important. “I think it's really helpful,” she says, “to have the same PA and PSW for so many years. It helps build trust.”
Chris made progress quickly with the job coach. Within a year, Chris had developed natural supports at his job, so that a job coach was no longer needed. Now he is moving forward on his own, always knowing that supports are available to him again, should his job duties change, or if he needs more support.
“There's quite a bit to learn,” Chris says. “It's never boring.”
“As a team member, Chris participates in all employee meetings, lunches, and celebrations,” says Schilawski. “He researches Vitro and what they do, and is almost an expert about the company…He is very proud of what he does and it shows throughout the plant in its cleanliness.” Chris credits his success partly to the support he received from RCO. “I couldn't have done it without you,” he says to Racheal, and Denise.
The work Chris does at Vitro is an essential contribution to the company's safety policies and a commitment to the environment, of which recycling plays a big part. The job requires him to wear steel shoes, goggles, and a special shirt to protect against glass shavings. There are about 50 workers in his building with whom he has a mutual respect. He has made new friends, and likes his co-workers. “They tell me to keep up the good work!” Chris says, smiling.
“His motto every day is 'I'm always trying to work harder or better than I did the day before,” says Schilawski. “And he does!”
His co-workers are not the only ones inspired by him. Denise and Racheal both have high praise for him and what he's accomplished. “He always gives 110%,” says Denise. “Sometimes I pick him up from work and he'll say “Work was great today! How was your work?” He inspires me to appreciate things. He's nice to be around—he's happy!”
Chris thinks back on what he has learned from Rachel and Denise, in his time with RCO, and is happy to share it with others. “First, look at your strengths, not your weaknesses,” he says. “Make each day better than the one before. Always check your work. And when you're ready for a job, practice. Practice your skills. Practice interviewing.”