Employment Network

Category: Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight: Janelle Gordon


By Employment Network, 2015-11-05
Member Spotlight:  Janelle Gordon

For November, the Employment Network is shining the Spotlight on Janelle Gordon.  As a Vocational Coordinator for people with disabilities, she’s a very strong believer in the power of networking.  Janelle is always looking for networking opportunities not only for herself, but for her clients as well.  In fact, Janelle is working on a project that would provide more opportunities for people with disabilities who are looking for employment in Brown County.  We are so fortunate to have her as a member of the Employment Network.

What kind of work do you do?  Where do you work at?

I am the Vocational Coordinator at Cognitive Concepts in Green Bay, WI.  I assist job seekers with disabilities meet employment goals.  I get to know my clients through use of the discovery process. I spend time with them in my office, in their home and out in the community.  I take the time to learn about their interests, skills, past employment and personal experiences, and see first-hand how they interact with others and respond to issues.  While getting to know my clients, I search for opportunities that matched their interests and abilities.  Along with employment goals, I assist individuals in accomplishing educational goals that would set them up for more and better opportunities of employment.

Tell us some good news: what’s the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?

Well, the most exciting thing happening for me right now, is that I am doing some research and getting some conversations going about starting something right here in Brown County.  Although I can’t provide a whole lot of details, I can assure everyone that I am working to lay some sort of groundwork that will hopefully open a lot more doors in the area to people with disabilities looking for employment. So if anyone is from Brown County and is interested in hearing more or joining forces to work with me on this, please feel free to connect with me. :)

Another exciting thing that is happen is that the federal government has set themselves up to be “model employers” and have made a point in hiring people with disabilities.  I have high hopes that this will be another way to get the word out about the benefits of hiring people with disabilities and create beer employment opportunities.  Advocates for people with disabilities across the nation have worked so hard to get this idea out there, and all that hard work is paying off, which is incredibly exciting!

What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

Whether you are a vocational professional assisting a person with disabilities in finding employment, or are a job seeker looking for opportunities, the best advice I can give is to network, network, network!  Join a professional group, attend chamber of commerce events, or even get involved in the community. Just starting up a conversation with someone is a great way to get yourself and what you are looking for out there!  Connecting with people and letting them get to know you is a great way to stand apart from the crowd and be remembered when an opportunity that you are looking for arises.  Tell people what you are looking for, even if they can’t offer up the position or the “in” that you want, they could, or direct you to someone else that could, tell you how to get there.  Find a way that works best for you to keep track of your contacts, nurture those relationships and establish those connections because even if there are no opportunities available now, there might be in the future, and you will want to know who to talk to, or more importantly, you will want that person to be able to get a hold of you.

What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?

Make connections.  We all struggle out there in the world, whether it be when looking for job opportunities, or personally.  The Employment Network is a tool that could and should be utilized to the fullest.  It is our own little networking community.  Some of us live in the same community, some of us do not, but this is a place to make connections far and wide.  I believe that we can all help each other, we can offer support, both professionally and personally, but we need to connect first.  So connect with each other, act as sounding boards for each other if nothing else, and know that we each have something valuable to contribute.

What’s your dream vacation?

Since I spend most of my time talking with people, and even when I go home at night, I’m still thinking about work and different ideas/possibilities that I could try, and even though I love being around other people, my dream vacation is on a warm and sunny remote island all alone.  A place where I can just lay in the sun, listen to the waves, and catch up on my reading and sleep.  Sound good to anyone else?

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I love both!  I currently do not have any pets and have developed an allergy to cats in my adult life, but I grew up having both cats and dogs as pets.  I had a black lab/golden retriever that topped out at 120 pounds, named Buster, and he was my best friend.  Along with Buster, I had Gus, or Gus Gus, for short.  He was a Chinese pug and the goofiest looking dog ever, who would sleep in my bed and snore all night, and when he sat on your lap, he looked like a hood ornament.  Growing up I also had one cat that stay with me for 18 years, along with five other random cats, a bird, a tank full of fish and a rabbit who thought he was a dog.  All of these animals came from various places...I just couldn’t turn away an animal that needed a home.  Eventually, this drove my parents nuts, so I had to re-home a few of the animals.

 ***We love hearing the views and opinions of Network members.  We need to mention that the views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the person who is sharing them. They do not necessarily reflect InControl Wisconsin or any of our supporters and funders.    

 

 

 

Member Spotlight: Jackie Cranley


By Employment Network, 2015-09-09

For the month of September, the Employment Network is shining the Member Spotlight on Jackie Cranley. Jackie has a great deal of knowledge in benefits planning and stresses that people with can work without losing all of their critical benefits. We are so fortunate to have her as part of the Employment Network. So, lets shine the Spotlight on Jackie!

What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?

Jackie is a Work Incentives Benefits Specialist and Independent Living Coordinator at Societys Assets, Inc. (SAI). SAI is an Independent Living Center, covering Racine, Kenosha, Walworth, Rock and Jefferson Counties. She has worked at SAI for 12 years. Prior to this, she worked on a grant involving outreach / information on the BadgerCare in Wisconsin, and before that, she worked for seven years as a Program Coordinator of Vocational Placement in Racine County.

Tell us some good news - what's the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?

As a Benefits Specialist, Jackie is very excited about the ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) Act. This gives people with disabilities an opportunity to save more money and not worry about losing their Medicaid. She says that she just wishes that they hadnt limited it to people who became disabled before age 26, but she hopes that maybe in time it will be expanded. You can find out more about the ABLE Act on the National Disability Institute website.

What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

Jackie notes that the Medicaid Purchase Plan (MAPP) is a way that people with disabilities can work and earn more, save more money and keep Medicaid coverage. She points out that with the MAPP, people can also have Independence Accounts. These accounts are an exempt asset and there are no restrictions on what the money can be used for.

What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?

Jackie wants people with disabilities to know that they can work. She explains that often people with disabilities think that if they go to work, their benefits will stop. Not so, she says. She discusses how there are many work incentives in place to help people enter or reenter the workforce without immediately losing cash payments or medical coverage. These work incentives can allow you to ease into employment and allow you to be less reliant on or work off benefits without falling off a cash cliff or losing medical benefits. There are also ways to save money (that wont count for public benefit limits) for your education or employment goals. She suggests that people contact a Work Incentives Benefits Specialist or talk to a Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) Counselor to find out more about working and incentives.

What's your dream vacation?

Jackie explains that she was born in England and she visited regularly when she was younger, but she hasnt been back there for over 20 years. I would love to go again to visit family, she says. She would also love to visit Wales which is where her Grandfather was from; and she would also like to go to Scotland which is where her Grandmothers side of the family was from, and where her parents lived when she was too young to remember.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Jackie is definitely an animal lover! She has two dogs. She says she would love to have a cat, but her husband is allergic.

***We love hearing the views and opinions of Network members. We need to mention that the views and opinions expressed on this site are those of the person who is sharing them. They do not necessarily reflect InControl Wisconsin or any of our supporters and funders.

Member Spotlight: Dan Johnson


By Employment Network, 2015-07-09

This month, we have the pleasure of shining the Spotlight on Dan Johnson. Dan is well-known across the state for his work and advocacy for people with disabilities. Specifically, he is incredibly knowledgeable about employment for people with physical disabilities. He wears multiple hats in the disability community and has a genuine passion to help people making him an excellent person to get to know. We are fortunate to have him on the Employment Network!

What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?

For the past 34 years I have worked for the Department of Health Services. My position as Coordinator of Resources for People with Physical Disabilities serves as the fixed-point-of-responsibility for the identification of the needs of people with physical disabilities and to assist in the development and coordination of programs for persons with physical disabilities. I develop training material and conduct training; consult with providers and others and represent the Department in speaking engagements. In my position I help plan and define program policies, goals and objectives to assure the delivery and coordination of services that are essential to foster independent living and self-sufficiency. To ensure that the services, needs and interests of persons with physical disabilities are reflected in the Departments decision making process, I serve as an internal advocate for people with physical disabilities in the Department. I work to ensure that information on the number and needs of people with physical disabilities are identified and maintained. I prepare and submit grant proposals and budget initiatives to develop new sources of funding for programs and services for people with physical disabilities. I participate in strategic planning, setting goals and objectives for the bureau, division and department

My first job assignment was to make sure that the Community Options Program (COP) would suit the needs of people with physical disabilities. It was great to be able to help identify, design and ensure that the services and benefits would be available through COP that met the needs of people with physical disabilities. It was a great pleasure to work with some of the greatest minds in state government and get the advice of advocates, counties and providers. It was also a pleasure to know that we were able to design a program that offered personal care, supportive home care, and funding to modify peoples homes to make them accessible with ramps, wide doors, and accessible bathrooms. The eligibility criteria would be such that they would have an opportunity to seek employment without losing their benefits, while providing all of this at a substantial savings compared to the cost of nursing homes and state centers for the developmentally disabled. I am pleased to say that the Community Options Program became recognized as a national and international model for providing long-term support in the community for people with physical disabilities, the elderly and people with developmental disabilities.

As a coordinator of a special project to improve the quality of independent living services, I headed up a project team that conducted research, compiled data, prepared a report, and conducted briefings for administrators on how the Department could provide clear, uniform and effective direction and administration of independent living services in Wisconsin. Our plan called for the development of statutory authority for independent living centers, funded with general purpose revenue for the statewide operation of eight Independent Living Centers. Eventually the federal reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act created requirements for a consumer controlled Independent Living Council with responsibility for establishing a state plan for independent living. I serve as a liaison to the State Independent Living Council Wisconsin (ILCW), which has the responsibility to develop a state plan for independent living programs and services.

Oftentimes, my job has allowed me to work across many state agencies since the needs of people with physical disabilities are complex and require access to affordable and accessible housing, transportation and long-term support services. In addition, the need for improved opportunities for education, training, and technical assistance in finding education modalities and employment and ensuring that civil rights protections are available. So I have worked with other state agencies to improve opportunities for employment, housing, transportation, insurance, camping and recreation, as well as accessibility to buildings and services. In addition, I have provided Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) training and offer technical assistance on the responsibilities of public and private entities.

Currently, I help staff both the Governors Committee for People with Disabilities and the Council on Physical Disabilities.

Tell us some good news - what's the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?

The Governors Committee for People with Disabilities Medical Assistance Purchase Plan (MAPP) Ad Hoc Workgroup is currently working to establish bi-partisan support to improve the work incentives available through the Medical Assistance Purchase Plan, Wisconsins Medicaid buy-in. The proposed changes to MAPP will help to eliminate many of the barriers to affordability and eligibility that plague people with significant disabling conditions when trying to find affordable health and long-term support services they require in order to go to work and maintain their employment.

What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

If you already havent done so, immediately seek the help of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). Research how DVR provides services and review their policies. They provide their manual online for your review. Understand your rights and be a strong self-advocate. Find a peer, a mentor or other advocate who successfully uses DVR, Medicaid and other long-term support services who will help you understand how they were able to secure the DVR benefits and maintain access to the health and long-term supports that allow them to work.

I would also try to find an employment provider, DVR counselor or long-term support case manager who would help you create an employment team. At a minimum, I recommend that this team include the DVR counselor, long-term support case manager, work incentive benefits specialists, job developer, and assistive technology specialist. Use this team to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Once youve identified your strengths and weaknesses, then you should identify a plan that will include what will be necessary to overcome the barriers, identify your desired employment outcome and then use the team to help you achieve your employment goal.

Establish regular team meetings, take notes at meetings, make assignments and hold people accountable for helping you. Having the DVR counselor and case manager on your team will help solve any problems with who will pay for what services or equipment.

Find a qualified work incentive benefits specialist and get a benefits analysis, so that you ensure that you maintain your eligibility for benefits and avoid the pitfalls that will make you ineligible for the supports you require in order to work. There are some good Job Developers out there, find one that will meet your needs as a person with physical disability. Find a career (not just any job) that you feel passionate about and go after it.

 

What message would you like to share with the members of the EmploymentNetwork?

Educate yourself about how the policies of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and our long-term support system work. The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation helped me obtain a college education, helped support the internship that led to my first full-time job, funded a drivers evaluation and paid for the first van modifications that included a joystick controlled and computer-assisted driving system that allowed me, as a C4/5 level spinal cord injured quadriplegic, to drive. DVR has helped me over the years with other accommodations that have made it possible for me to be employed for 43 years.

Keep trying, I tried college, but the supports were non-existent in 1963. Then I tried a number of jobs that never worked out. However, I had a good DVR counselor, a good social worker, a reporter who wanted to do a follow-up story on my high school wrestling accident and a desire to work with people. The newspaper article helped me find one person who believed in me. He was in a position to create a six-month training program as a retail store manager and in six months I was managing my own store. All the while, I was working with others in Racine and found Societys Assets, Inc. one of the first four Independent Living Centers in the state. I became the first Executive Director of that organization. I also learned the importance of individual and systems advocacy and the importance they play both in your personal and professional life. That advocacy helped me make more interesting connections than I had ever imagined and led to more opportunities.

As a person with a disability, I believe that employment is possible and that if you want to work, there are resources available through DVR to help you and there are work incentives available through Social Security Administration and our Medicaid buy-in program that will help you maintain your eligibility for health care and long-term support services, such as personal care that will allow you to work.

What's your dream vacation?

Taking a tour of the West coast, including some of the National Parks, like Yellowstone, Yosemite, Redwood, Rocky Mountain, you get the idea. While Im there I want to visit Vancouver Island.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

I wasnt either, but with kids comes the pleading for pets, so Id have to say Im a dog person because we have a Golden Retriever, we also had fish, cats, rats, gerbils, snakes, as well as others furry and non-furry critters. No birds though, no one ever asked. I do however enjoy the pair of great horned owls who have made our backyard 60-year-old white pine trees their nesting habitat for the last three years, raising at least four babies over those three years. It has been amazing.

 

Member Spotlight: Sara Herman


By Employment Network, 2015-05-06

The Employment Network is shining the Member Spotlight on Sara Herman. Sara has a wealth of knowledge about a variety of vocational services and believes that its very important that people are happy with the work that they do. We are so fortunate to have her a part of the Employment Network. So, lets shine the Spotlight on Sara!

 

What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?

Sara is the Director of Vocational Services at Innovative Services, Inc. She oversees all vocational services Innovative Services, Inc. provides throughout Wisconsin.

Tell us some good news - what's the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?

Whats most exciting for Sara is that within their Vocational Services at Innovative Services, Inc. is a new energy that has revitalized the department--they are offering more services and unique opportunities to customers/consumers. Sara says they have a solid team that has taken on a more progressive approach and strives for thinking outside the box.

 

What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

Sara thinks its important for people who want to work to remain very active in their career planning. She points out that just because a person may have never done something before, doesnt mean its not a career option for him/her! She say, its so important to be happy with the work you do in order for you to remain successful on the job!

What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?

Sara thinks its great when professionals who share the same goal can come together and share information--its necessary for the ultimate success of those they work with. She points out that the more people can partner and collaborate, the greater the opportunities we can create for those we serve.

What's your dream vacation?

Although, Sara says ANY vacation would be a dream to her, she would love to go to Greece!

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Sara is definitely a dog person. Her and her daughters have a six month old English Mastiff they who absolutely adore!

 

Member Spotlight: Marie Massart


By Employment Network, 2015-03-23

The Employment Network is shining the Member Spotlight on Marie Massart. Marie makes and sells beautiful jewelry. In addition to being a volunteer for an unique association, she is a great advocate for people with disabilities in Wisconsin. We are so fortunate to have her a part of the Employment Network. So, lets shine the Spotlight on Marie!

What kind of work do you do?

Marie makes and sells beautiful jewelry. Shes a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and is a very strong advocate for people with disabilities. She hopes to work more with public policy someday. Marie is also very involved in the Northeast Wisconsin Antique Power Association. She volunteers for them a lot throughout the year.

Where do you work?

Marie sells her jewelry at her home, at fairs, in the community, etc...

Tell us some good news- what's the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work? What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

Marie says that when people with disabilities work, its another way they contribute in the community and it makes them feel good about themselves.

What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?

Follow your heart and dreams--never give up!

What's your dream vacation?

Marie would love to go Tennessee someday. She wants to go to Nashville and Sparta.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Dog person

Member Spotlight: Shannon Huff


By Employment Network, 2013-07-02

Standing in the spotlight this month on the Employment Network is Shannon Huff. Many folks in Wisconsin (and beyond!) know Shannon as a key resource on self-employment. She's also incredibly knowledgeable about employment and transition, as well as employment planning for people with physical disabilities. In fact, she's a great resource on all-things employment-related! Shannon's also a member of the Hosting Team here on the Employment Network. I think you'll enjoy getting to know her better in this month's Member Spotlight.

What kind of work do you do, Shannon? Where do you work?

I am a self-employed, independent consultant. Public and private agencies hire me to manage grant projects, help with change/improvement initiatives, and provide training and technical assistance. I worked with the WI Department of Health Services for 6 years on our states Medicaid Infrastructure Grant. I am currently working with the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities on a transition focused federal grant called Lets Get to Work, with the IRIS Consultant Agency on the IRIS Employment Initiative, and other private agencies. I also provide vocational planning services to individuals on a limited basis. I have a home office but I travel a lot for work throughout the state.

Tell us some good news - what's the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?

I have been working in this field for 20 years and I am very excited to see some of the changes that are occurring most recently on the federal, state and local level to improve integrated employment outcomes and self-directed support options for people with disabilities. I believe we are finally reaching a tipping point with both our culture/understanding about disability and civil rights/policies that make living an ordinary, community life possible for people with disabilities.

What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

As for a tip: I am a firm believer in teamwork and open, positive communication. If you want to work, get all the people who support you together into the same room (school staff, DVR, case manager, family, service providers, etc) and tell them you want their support to pursue employment. Then, insist that they think creatively and look for the most up to date information and best practices in employment supports for people with disabilities. Ask a person on your team to help you be a champion to your goal. So if someone isnt supporting your goals, they can help you work through this challenge.

As for a resource: A colleague, Nancy Molfenter, and I created a series of on-line, interactive modules for people with disables. They are called Self-Directed Employment Planning. These modules can help people learn about themselves and the resources that employment. The modules are found at www.incontrolwisconsin.org

What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?

I love to share the information and resources I learn about in my work. If you ever have a question or need a resource, please feel free to email me through the Network!

What's your dream vacation?

Several months traveling around Europe with my husband would be nice.

Are you a dog person or a cat person?

Definitely a dog person! I have a St. Bernard named Fiona. She is big and lovely.

Member Spotlight: Stephanie Drum


By Employment Network, 2013-04-24

The Employment Network is shining the Member Spotlight on Stephanie Drum. Stephanie has a wealth of knowledge about how work affects your benefits and what incentives are available to help you make informed decisions about working when you're concerned about losing your benefits. We are lucky to have her as a member of the Employment Network. Stephanie will be joining us for a Coffee Break on May 1st.

What kind of work do you do? Where do you work?

I am a Work Incentives Benefits Specialist (WIBS) and trainer for the Wisconsin Disability Benefits Network (WDBN). I work for Employment Resources, Inc. (ERI) in Madison, WI.

Tell us some good news - what's the most exciting thing happening for you or for people with disabilities who want to work?

I have heard from Social Security and people using the system that the telephone wage reporting is working for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients. This reduces some of the administrative process for people who have to report their work to Social Security. This is really helpful for those who can use it.

What employment tip or resource would you like to share with people who want to work?

The UW Extensions often have free budget counseling and tools. Also, there are free programs at local banks and Universities/Colleges that can provide financial education to people. Budgeting as one aspect of working can get lost in the planning.

What message would you like to share with the members of the Employment Network?

Dont be afraid of Social Security! If you get into the habit of reporting income and you keep in touch about other changes, that often leads to fewer issues. I know that problems pop up, but some of them can be avoided if you provide accurate and current information to Social Security.

What's your dream vacation?

Somewhere warm and quiet. At this point in my life, I would take just quiet.

What's your favorite book/movie/music?

Right now, my favorite music is from Band of Horses.

Movie right now, Groundhog Day or Royal Tenenbaums.

Book I always fall back on Anna Karenina, but there are likely other competitors.

 
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