A Fresh Start for Brian
The Culinary Career Academy was the perfect program for Brian to learn and grow from- especially during the CoVid-19 pandemic. It was challenging, interesting and gave him valuable up-to-date training on everything ‘food service’ related. Prior to the CoVid-19 shutdown, Brian had been working as a cafeteria helper for North High, a Worcester Public School since March of 2018. During his time there, he became more confident in his skills as a dishwasher and a food prepper. One thing he struggled with, multiple times, was passing the ServSafe® exam when North High offered the training. Excitingly, with the support of the staff from the Culinary Career Academy, he PASSED! He attributes him passing the exam to his own dedication but also the 1:1 assistance and commitment of the Culinary Career staff members. With a ServSafe® certification now in hand, he can now qualify for more challenging roles in the Worcester Public School system. In summary, during a difficult time filled with uncertainty and isolation, the Culinary Career Academy was an absolute game-changer for Brian, providing him with career exploration, team building, and a ServSafe® certification. With the Central Mass Employment Collaborative’s assistance, Brian started back as a Cafeteria Helper for North High in March of 2021, and he couldn’t be happier to be back at work!
Riverside Employment Collaboratives' Budding Partnership with WooSox
The Massachusetts Regional Employment Collaboratives acknowledges the Worcester Red Sox for their outstanding commitment to employing persons with disabilities during their inaugural season, the spring and summer of 2021. From the onset of our relationship, the Worcester Red Sox also known as the WooSox expressed an unwavering commitment to the Worcester community, and their employment and outreach outcomes reflect that commitment. Alex Richardson, Manager, Ballpark & Community Relations with the Worcester Red Sox reflects "Providing access to those who need it the most is something we should strive to do on a daily basis. Since working with Riverside Community Care Employment Collaboratives, we are beyond grateful for the advocacy and determination that they provide for all of their clients, some of whom are the heart and foundation to our success at Polar Park!"
To date, 12 individuals have been employed by the organization, having obtained diverse job opportunities including Sous Chef, Guest Service and Ticket Operations. The inspired efforts of our community are exemplified by job seekers who took risks and found success in positions they did not initially imagine. One such success story is captured by Sandra Hurtubise, Youth Transition Coordinator with Seven Hills Foundation. Sandra states that the “The Worcester Woosox have been very supportive and accommodating to working with individuals with unique learning styles and talents. Alex found my individual's outgoing personality a perfect fit for an Usher position.”
Additionally, the WooSox have maintained an open line of communication with the REC’s providing information regarding special events celebrating the life of Jackie Robinson and Autism Acceptance Night at Polar Park. We look forward to continuing this amazing relationship with the organization well into next season and beyond!
Eric's Journey Towards Recovery In His Own Words
"Tradewinds was a great start. We set goals, something I honestly did not give much thought to, with regular checks on progress. This helps. Staff and members have always been supportive, encouraging, and believed in me even when I did not. Doing data entry was tough at first, as I had near zero computer skills. The outreach calls and the tours I gave were enjoyable. I never graduated high school, so they also connected me with HiSet classes to study and pass my exams for a diploma. Only the algebra was stubborn, but in November I passed with flying colors. I started chairing a weekly Dual Recovery Anonymous (DRA) group at the Clubhouse that December, which brings me to my recovery story.
In 2011, I lost my job of 25 years. In 2013, I lost my house of 20 years. By 2016, I could not keep the car on the road. I’ve lived in tents, cars, a 24’ motorhome, with friends, etc. None of this had helped my depression. Neither did my drinking. Still though, I worked when I could and always helped everyone who had helped me. To them, I am in debt. In March of 2018, I moved to Dorchester, MA. Things were going well for a year or so until in July of 2019, things got rather impolite and I split. I knew Southbridge was my best choice for support services- so there I went.
In August of 2019, I quit drinking to stay at a local guest house for three months. It was a very nice place with good people. I also enrolled in daily outpatient groups and attended Alcoholics Anonymous daily. I had to leave the guest house in December of 2019, so I moved back to Wales with an elderly couple whom I had been dear friends with for 30+ years. I had received a decent amount of support from Tradewinds at this time. The morning and afternoon Clubhouse meetings were conducted through phone and video calls. There was always someone to talk to. Free lunches were even made and delivered, which had handwritten inspirational sayings on them. Thank you all.
In June of 2020, Tradewinds had connected me with local work, which I had accepted. I am still there and doing well. And just like that, after nine years I received a full-time job doing honest work I enjoy, at Youghall Realty, LLC in Southbridge, full of decent people. I can still attend/chair the weekly DRA group at Tradewinds because my employer sees the value in it. I miss seeing everyone at the Clubhouse sometimes though, but I do often see friends around town and they are all very happy for me.
In September 2020, I celebrated one year as a member of Tradewinds. I have much more work ahead of me, yet I feel better having done what I have done. The depression still lurks but staying busy is the best therapy, besides good associations. Try to keep your chin up and focus on helping others, be genuinely interested in people and listen to them. The change will come if you apply yourself, and the entire planet will benefit from your efforts. Without the support of the staff and members at Tradewinds, I do not believe any of this would have been possible."
CVS Abilities in Abundance Training Program-"Definitely Check This Out!"
-Sydney Johnson, Employment Coordinator, Crossroads Clubhouse
With the pandemic in full swing, I was looking for opportunities for Crossroads Clubhouse members who were hungry to learn new skills that would help them find employment. The CVS Abilities in Abundance with the RECs training program was the perfect course to allow the members a safe and conducive learning environment to do just that. Crossroads Clubhouse member Liliana stated “I can say that the program was very efficient and adapted well to the use of virtual learning tools. It was informative and very well produced.” Liliana is a program graduate who also shared her positive experience from the Abilities in Abundance program at the recent CMEC All Partners Meeting.
The program itself is a great resource for participants to practice their Soft Skills, gain retail knowledge, and in this case become familiar with the Zoom platform. Jonathan, another program graduate at the Clubhouse, expressed his gratitude in saying “I really enjoyed the CVS Training on Zoom, because it felt like a real class. It gave me confidence to see the training center, and what it would be like to work at CVS. I also liked the breakout rooms when we worked on our soft skills. This has even helped me this fall since all of my college classes are on-line.”
The format of the program really helped hone in on the importance of soft skills and how these can be utilized in nearly any situation. One great success story is from Melody, “I found the session on informational interviews extremely interesting since it was unfamiliar to me and then I was given the opportunity for one in my writing career just two days later!” Since the session on informational interviews Melody has appeared on several podcasts thanks to her incredible writing talent.
One of the big consistencies that I have seen is just how much care is put into the program. Instead of cancelling the program due to the pandemic, they worked hard to make it accessible and effective. The patience and consideration from the REC staff and from Jonathan DaSilva did not go unnoticed by the participants. Chris writes “I will recommend this training for anybody interested in working for CVS, expanding their credentials, or breaking through the ice of an often hostile or intimidating entry level position. The training leader, Jonathan, had a personable, approachable tone, so before you sign up, make sure he is in charge of the training so as to get the best out of it. Definitely check this out!"
I want to thank Earlene, Rupali, Jonathan DaSilva, and everyone else who worked so hard not only to help me but get this training up and running on the virtual platform! We at Crossroads Clubhouse are looking forward to the next one!
Hillary Clough: Greeting a Challenging Time with a Great Job Match
When Hillary Clough graduated from high school seven years ago, the thought of attending college was so overwhelming to her that she decided to forego college and join the workforce. That decision weighed heavily on her mind for several years after that as she bounced from job to job finding no satisfaction. Hillary commented, “For a long time, my job was just getting up in the morning and trying to overcome my depression and anxiety and find a spark of happiness.”
She was referred to Work Opportunities by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission in early April of 2020, right when the COVID-19 pandemic essentially shut the world down. Hillary began working with Michelle Grahn, Career Resource Specialist, to get her on the right path to successful employment. Throughout April and May, they met via Zoom and over the phone to develop Hillary’s resume and cover letter, work on interview skills, and dig into what kind of job would bring joy to Hillary’s life.
During that time, Hillary’s drive never ceased to amaze Michelle. “She was very motivated and eager to learn all that she could to be successful,” said Michelle. “She watched videos and completed her homework assignments cheerfully and with intense enthusiasm.”
Once Hillary decided what she wanted to do for a job and how many hours she wanted to work, she and Michelle searched and applied for jobs that interested her, one of which was a position as a Merchandiser for Hallmark. In that role, she would manage Hallmark's product inventory within various retail outlets. Hillary’s superb personality, creative skills, and ability to paint a great visual of her previous work experience won her the position, and she started in early June.
Michelle noted of her appointment, “Hillary has been a delight to work with and is determined to do a great job. She’s still excited in all that she is learning and is looking forward to when her training is completed so she may work on her own.”
According to Hillary, “It took many years of self-reflection and hard work to understand the cause of my depression and anxiety, and although I still battle them every day, I can now say that working at my job makes me happy. Thank you, Work Opportunities, and thank you, Michelle!”
Fedex and Jonathan; Determined to get you your package on time!
Jonathan T. recently began working part-time as a package handler at FedEx in early September 2019. He works 15-20 hours a week Monday through Friday. The volume of packages received dictates the amount of hours Jonathan works per week and he has already adjusted to his new schedule.
Although he has done an excellent job at learning the responsibilities and expectations of his position, Jonathan benefits from a little added support. He receives this on-site support from My Choice Programs in order to set him up for success. My Choice Programs are a Partner of The Central Mass Employment Collaborative (CMEC), who has a long-standing working relationship with FedEx, helping with their recruiting needs. Jonathan’s added supports will gradually fade as he does not require them long term.
Now that he is working, he has developed a new routine. He consistently arrives to work early and is prepared and ready to go for his shift. Jonathan would like to thank CMEC for helping him obtain this position. He takes pride in his work. He has shown a natural aptitude for his job and is proud to be an employee of FedEx.
Dana Learns Valuable Work and Interview Skills to Prepare for New Job
Dana is a Worcester resident supported by HMEA’s Millbury Employment Program, a partner of the Central Mass Employment Collaborative. Since 2018, he has been actively taking part in work-related trainings and employer tours offered by CMEC. Dana not only practiced his interview skills through an "Ace the Interview" training, but also learned valuable work skills through a Mass Advocate training held at the CMEC office.
Dana recently started a job as a Property Worker at the Mass Audubon’s Broad Meadow Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Worcester. When asked, Dana said "Rupali at CMEC has helped me a lot to prepare for part-time jobs. I love working at Broad Meadow Brook!”
Cara's Scholarship Becomes a Valuable Asset in Her Recovery
Cara’s story of recovery began in 2014 when she dealt with identity fraud. After 21 years of resiliency and recovery, she lost her job, car, license, and access to education, and ended up in the hospital. Through counseling, she began working with the Department of Mental Health where she states her “life changed 180 degrees.” Through DMH, she applied for a volunteer opportunity which ultimately led to a job as an activity assistant, a position she held for three years.
Her next goal was to finish her college degree, and through the help of DMH, she met with a disability counselor at her college who said that she could return, but would have to pay for the first class. Through DMH’s partnership with the Central Mass Employment Collaborative, Cara was able to apply for a scholarship through our Sponsorship Training Program to cover this first, necessary semester.
Cara was awarded the scholarship, which she said “was one of the most valuable assets to recovery” and that “it reinforced how much progress she made in resiliency.” Cara obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services, graduating Cum Laude with a 3.2 GPA.
She realized that being a voice of mental health recovery was important and started her new journey, pursuing peer specialist work. She began volunteering at Every Day Miracles where she was welcomed and had the opportunity to learn about working with different populations. Cara remarks, “I have a passion and realized how hard it is to obtain sobriety. Now, I have some new amazing people in my life. I have gained a new respect about the changes that people make in sober living. I am lucky that I have my family, friends, medical staff, and other support systems in the community. I am grateful which fuels my recovery and keeps my resilience ongoing.”
February 2019: Interview Training and Preparation Provide Heidi with the Confidence to Enter the Workforce
Heidi is a spirited, polite woman with a great smile, and is always ready to express her gratefulness. She actively participated in CMEC’s Ace the Interview sessions. Through the sessions, Heidi gained confidence in the job interview process, became prepared to answer interview questions, improved her verbal skills, and learned how to face different types of interviewers. In addition, she participated in CMEC’s Soft Skills Training Workshop, which helped her learn social skills for participating in the workforce.
As a result of these trainings, Heidi became more confident in her ability to enter the workforce. Through collaboration between CMEC and our partner, HMEA, Heidi was successfully placed as a Janitorial Crew member at Family Behavioral Health in Oxford. She works there once a week and takes immense pride in her job. Heidi is very excited about her role in disinfecting services.
Heidi's employer gives her accolades for going above and beyond, and for her thoroughness at her job. Heidi’s job coach describes her as reliable, capable, consistent, and that she cannot be more proud of herself at doing her best at her job.