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Firms, employees honored at Champions of Disability luncheon
Firms, employees and a community partner were honored Thursday as disability employment champions. Shown in front are Jim Rothrock and Whitney Stone. In back are Jeff Jacobs, Keith Gravely, Judy Hale, Scott Guebert, Patricia Worley and Sandy Weaver. (Bulletin photo)
Friday, October 11, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer
Three employers, a community partner and two employees received awards at the Champions of Disability Employment Luncheon on Thursday at Patrick Henry Community College.
The Martinsville Area Disability Employment Network (MADEN) sponsored the luncheon, which about 60 people attended.
Blue Ridge Rehabilitation Center, Walmart in Martinsville and Hardees in Ridgeway received Employer Awards. Patrick Henry Community College received the Community Partner Award. Judy Hale, a housekeeper at Blue Ridge Rehabilitation Center, and Whitney Stone, a teacher aide at Henry Fork Service Center, received Employee Awards.
The employers were honored for outstanding commitment to hiring and supporting people with disabilities in the workplace, according to a Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) news release and speakers at the luncheon.
PHCC was honored for helping students with disabilities be successful in college and beyond.
Hale was praised for such things as her persistence and positive attitude.
When asked about her disability in a phone interview Thursday night, Hale, 50, of Patrick Springs said, “You’ve got to have patience when you want me to learn something.”
Over a number of years, she said, she had lost some jobs because of company closings, had temporary jobs and then lost her mother, Lillie Rogers, on Sept. 8.
Through it all, Hale said, she “tried to think positive. Sometimes that’s awful hard.”
When she “got in with the (the department of rehabilitative services), that got me on a little more positive track.” That agency helped her get into a job that she likes to do and provided training, she said.
She said she has worked at Blue Ridge Rehabilitation Center since Feb. 25, and “it’s been a godsend.”
“I help them (the patients). They need housekeepers’ help in order to function. I hope I’ve made a difference in their lives,” she said.
Stone, 27, was praised for such things as her determination, optimism, friendliness, independence and sense of humor.
She said in a phone interview Thursday night that she has arthrogryposis. She explained that her muscles didn’t form enough for her to walk.
The Bassett resident earned an associate degree at PHCC and a bachelor’s degree at Radford University and has been a teacher aide at Henry Fork Service Center, an after-school day care program in Rocky Mount, since February, according to Stone and Donna Martin, lead rehabilitation counselor with the Martinsville office of the department of rehabilitative services.
“I love being able to help kids and make a positive difference. Not all kids have great home lives,” said Stone, adding she aims to be a positive role model.
Finding a job was difficult because of her physical limitations, she said.
“I need to be a step above mentally to make up for the physical,” she said. She accomplishes that through “determination, positive support at home and positive outlook,” she said.
Through the department of rehabilitative services, she went to the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, learned to drive, and the department provided funding for her to have a van with adaptive equipment and remodeled her bathroom, she said.
People with disabilities want to work, they have talents, and they are used to overcoming barriers, Virginia DARS Commissioner Jim Rothrock said at the luncheon. “In their dreams they see themselves working,” said Rothrock, a Martinsville native.
Rothrock cited the need to remove barriers wherever possible.
At one point he placed his hands beside his ears — to indicate one’s mind — as he said one obstacle is how people perceive people with disabilities. He cited the need to celebrate the successes of workers with disabilities and focus on their abilities, not their disabilities.
“Success is often times the result of solid partnerships,” Rothrock stated in a DARS news release. “This year’s Champions demonstrate the success that can be realized when talented Virginians with disabilities, supported by skilled professionals, meet the employment needs of progressive employers who easily identify the abilities, not disabilities, presented to them.”
PHCC President Angeline Godwin, the keynote speaker, talked about “The Task of Growing a Stronger Economy.”
She said community colleges and universities are “in the talent development business,” and PHCC provides an environment and supports to help all students be successful.
“We can spend all day talking about what cannot be done, or we can spend some time (thinking) about what can be done,” she said.
“Every single individual brings to bear value,” she said.
Godwin cited the need to inspire people to do what seems impossible, to have a more inclusive culture and to affirm the possibilities in all people.
The event also celebrated October being National Disability Awareness Month.
MADEN area partners include Bassett Furniture Industries, Blue Ridge Independent Living Center, The Choice Group, Community Recovery Program, Division of Rehabilitative Services, Goodwill Industries of the Valley, Henry County Public Schools, Henry-Martinsville Social Services, Horizons Unlimited, Martinsville City Schools, MARC Workshop, MWS Mobile Employment, MWS/BIS, PHCC, RSVP Inc. Stand-Up Inc. and Virginia Employment Commission.