“I had a fear of returning to work with unfamiliar people and unfamiliar environments. I felt withdrawn from society.” Fear and the uncertainty of returning to the workforce were clearly barriers to employment for Rick McEachern. His fortunes and outlook on employment soon changed, however. Rick received the contact information of a GIRE outreach worker. He set up a meeting with her and learned about the array of services that GIRE could offer him. Shortly thereafter, he began receiving vocational services from the Department of Rehabilitation and was assigned a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor. The counselor referred Rick to GIRE’s Situational Assessment program. This program gave Rick the opportunity to work at GIRE for 30 hours, with the goal of learning more about his current skills and abilities. As Rick recalls, the assessment was enjoyable because the job coaches that worked with him were “patient, polite and conducted themselves in a professional manner.” The fact that staff greeted him with a handshake and smile everyday made Rick feel “more than welcomed.” These warm greetings and compassion “took away my fear and awkwardness,” according to Rick.
During the assessment, Rick had a chance encounter that would end up changing the course of his life. While on break one day, he had a conversation with the warehouse manager. The manager was very impressed with Rick’s work and had heard good things from warehouse staff about Rick. After the assessment concluded, Rick was referred to GIRE’s job placement program. Staff in this program was able to advocate for Rick and help him apply for an on-call Operations Support position in the warehouse. Rick was offered the job and gladly accepted. This opportunity allowed him to try all aspects of work in the warehouse. His good work was soon noticed by management, who offered him a permanent, part-time position as a Baler in the warehouse. Rick is currently working as many as 40 hours per week and continues to be open toward other opportunities at GIRE. Rick also recognizes the ripple effect of the support he has received, saying, “GIRE is helping my family as it is helping me.” Rick looks forward to going to work everyday in large part because “GIRE and employees treat me with respect which has given me back my dignity and self-esteem.”