As a vocational rehabilitation counselor, I met James in 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. He was experiencing psychological and physical problems – back and shoulder – as a result of a work-related injury. Shortly thereafter, he returned to his boyhood home in the South to find employment.
About nine years ago, he returned to Ohio and rejoined vocational rehabilitation services to search for part-time employment. He had no money, no housing, and no medical and psychological services. He was able to reconnect with his medical doctor and psychologist.
He found a supported apartment across from a church in Cleveland. One day, he noticed trash on the lawn at the church. Without being asked, he cleaned the lawn to the delight of the people at the church.
I suggested he approach the church about doing volunteer work there. He did and began doing landscaping and helped in the kitchen, setting up, moping and cleaning. Pleased with his work, the church decided to hire him part-time. The supervisor from the church was aware on his work-related injuries.
For eight years, Jim was an independent worker who completed any tasks assigned in addition to anything that needed being done to ready the church for Sunday services. This work experience turned his life around. He joined the church as an active member.
He and I maintained a relationship over this period. His psychological problems were reduced, and he was able physically to perform all the tasks assigned to him inside and out – including landscaping.
On one occasion, he was instructed to work with a team of volunteers to move wood chips from the parking lot. Unfortunately, no one showed to help and he ended up doing the work himself – at which time he re-injured his back.
Realizing James was injured, the office manager instructed another staff member to physically take away the landscaping tools James was using. The office manager also ordered the staff member to tell James to leave.
Later, the office manager reported in writing that James had quit the job. In reality, he was instructed to leave. He did not quit.
I met with James and suggested he find a job in the neighborhood. He walked to a local nursing home and applied as a cook. They were so impressed, they hired him as a cook after only 15 minutes.
After a year, the nursing home has been delighted with his kitchen skills and how he goes beyond what is required, helping to wash dishes and mopping floors.
James continues to be an active member of the church where he was asked to leave. He would not and did not quit that job. James is an amazing individual and a hard-working employee.
He reflected that the job at the church helped him become employable with support from vocational rehabilitation, medical and psychological services. The nursing home allowed him to use his work as a chef before his injuries.