Feels Like I Never Left

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Richard Wilson, joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, TX in 2014 after serving 18 years in the U.S. Army. Richard retired as a staff sergeant/E-6.
At PRIDE Industries, we help individuals who return with physical, emotional, and mental health disabilities that create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency.

Richard became an orphan as a very young boy. His first few years were spent in a South Korean orphanage until an American couple adopted him. At eight years old Richard relocated to the U.S. with his new family. Learning a new language, adapting to a different culture, along with being given a new American name was challenging, recalls Richard.

He grew up in a small town in northwest Nevada. His teenage years were rough as he made wrong decisions and was going down the wrong path and barely graduated high school. Richard hungered for a fresh start. He joined the U.S. Army hoping it would provide a better future.

“I did not think I was going to make a career in the military, luckily it was exactly what I needed,” says Richard. While in the service Richard held several positions and completed three tours in Iraq. His time in the military left visible and hidden battle wounds.

Once his military career ended, he had difficulty transitioning to the civilian workforce. Richard attended multiple job fairs and joined numerous veteran’s programs, but nothing came through and he was unemployed for six months.

Though Richard aspired to continue protecting his country after retirement, life had other plans. “I wanted to be a border patrol or law enforcement agent, but I was unable due to my medical condition.”

Fortunately, Richard met Cynthia Baca at a job fair. Cynthia is a Recruiter for PRIDE at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, focusing on individuals qualified under the AbilityOne Program. Under the AbilityOne program – a federal initiative to create jobs for individuals with significant disabilities – PRIDE Industries provides base-wide facilities support to the Army installation. “After I got into the program, Ms. Baca always updated me on new job listings and helped me apply,” says Richard. For Richard, Cynthia’s efforts to help him become employed were unlike anything he had experienced before. He credits her for his success at PRIDE, “I now refer other disabled veterans to Ms. Baca for help.” Learn more about Cynthia Baca.

Once at PRIDE, Richard began as a service order desk clerk. Later, Richard’s skills and work ethic earned him a promotion to the warehouse as a stocker. “Helping the technicians is the best part of this job,” says Richard. “I love working at PRIDE Industries, and my co-workers in the warehouse are like family.”

Although he loves his job, he does miss being a soldier. Luckily, his job at PRIDE has an additional benefit. “Working in a military community feels like I never left the Army,” says Richard. “It is rewarding contributing to the team that helps soldiers and the civilians that work with them.”

Though Richard’s military career ended with a disability and new challenges, he is grateful for the opportunity. “PRIDE allows me to continue to serve the military community,” says Richard.

We are so glad you found your place with PRIDE Industries Richard and thank you for your service. To learn more about PRIDE’s employment services for veterans visit: prideindustriesfoundation.org/programs.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Frank Goehringer

pride-industries-_-frank-military-pic_editedAfter graduating from college, Frank Goehringer wanted to serve the country that he loved while pursuing a career. He enlisted in the California Army National Guard in 1988, a commitment that continued throughout two decades. Service brought Frank around the country and the world to Germany, Panama and Italy. Despite over a decade of experience, the most significant and challenging part of his service was in 2003 when the United States had declared war on Iraq; Frank learned that he would immediately be sent over.

To support Operation Iraqi Freedom, Frank served in a military intelligence unit. His job duties included identifying, assessing and countering threats to the military. “Even though I had been stationed abroad before, it was a big adjustment getting used to working in an active war zone,” says Frank. During this period, he became injured and required surgery. While receiving medical treatment, Frank received the devastating news that four troops had been attacked and killed – including soldiers in his former convoy.

“I didn’t get to participate much in the battlefield, but I witnessed the full impact of war.”

During his recovery from surgery, Frank volunteered to help other soldiers attend doctor appointments. It was there that he witnessed the physical, mental and emotional aftermath of war. “This was a very emotional time for me,” says Frank. “After I deployed to Iraq, a lot changed within me. I made it my personal mission to help our country’s veterans, especially after seeing the challenges that most faced after coming home.”

While lending a helping hand, including personally hosting some homeless veterans in his house, Frank learned best how to help veterans transition to civilian life. “One of the biggest challenges facing younger and recent veterans now is that they learn many useful skills – but have a difficult time translating these to civilian job positions while drafting a resume and cover letter. The lack of civilian workplace connections and living with the effects and stigma of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) also creates obstacles to employment. “

After retiring from the National Guard, Frank decided to look for a new career opportunity. By chance, he met with a PRIDE Industries recruiter and was recommended for the PRIDE’s Veteran’s Liaison – a new position created in 2012. “Coming to PRIDE was an incredible experience. It was amazing seeing what people with disabilities can do given the opportunity. I wanted to help expand these opportunities to veterans – with and without disabilities.”

Frank soon got to work. Through his position, he helps veterans navigate through different government programs to get benefits and prepares them for employment. Frank uses his extensive knowledge of veteran networks to expand the company recruiting outreach. To bridge the gap between military and civilian skills, he helped with the creation of PRIDE’s internship program in 2014, where veterans are placed in a three-month paid internship to gain valuable work experience. Throughout his time at PRIDE Industries, Frank has successfully reached out to help veterans gain access to opportunities across the nation.

Frank’s commitment to his country and fellow veterans has continued beyond his role at PRIDE. He is a member of various organizations including AMVETS, AUSA (Association of the US Army), American Legion, DAV (Disabled American Veterans), VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and Placer County Veteran Stand Down. Frank also is a volunteer and member with the Veteran Administration’s No Veteran Dies Alone, an organization which supports veterans in hospice care.

Thank you for your service and dedication Frank, and for your excellent efforts to help out our nation’s veterans. We are proud to have you at PRIDE Industries.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Enoch Mitchell

 

pride-industries-_-enoch-mitchell“I wanted to serve in the US military to make a difference in the world.” Enoch Mitchell was inspired to join the Army after witnessing the 9/11 attacks in his hometown of NYC. In 2008, he enlisted with his older brother. With his previous education in aviation, Enoch completed his basic training in in air defense. In 2010, he deployed to Iraq to serve in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“I felt nervous but was excited to serve my country abroad. When I left, I flew to Germany first and then to a base near Baghdad, Iraq,” says Enoch. “After leaving the airplane and feeling the heat and seeing the red sky and American casualties – this all became reality.”

In his role as a Sergeant, Enoch kept the base safe by notifying soldiers of incoming artillery and intercepting rocket fire. This demanding positioning requires an advanced knowledge of air defense systems to provide 24/7 protection. During this period, Enoch shattered his leg; metal plates and pins were placed in the bone to keep it together. Due to this injury, his tour ended in 2011.

“It felt bittersweet coming home. It was good to be back, but I missed the familiarity and closeness of the military,” says Enoch.

After returning to the United States, Enoch requested to be stationed at Ft. Bliss until he retired in 2013. Transitioning from the military into civilian life is often a challenge, especially for veterans with service disabilities. Enoch struggled to find work. He found jobs at call centers, but none gave flexible accommodations that allowed him to deal with his injured leg and as a result, were short-lived. Enoch kept looking, and fortunately in 2015 was connected with PRIDE Industries.

Previously while stationed at Ft. Bliss, Enoch had interacted with PRIDE employees working on this contract. “From my experience, I saw that PRIDE was excellent company to work for, especially with the mission to create jobs for people with disabilities.” He worked with PRIDE’s AbilityOne Recruiter, Cynthia Baca, to apply for positions. Two months later, Enoch started working as a Service Order Desk Clerk, where he handles service orders through the plumbing shop.

Enoch has become a valued member of his team. Accommodations such as an ergonomic chair and a standing desk to make computer work comfortable for his leg, as well as flexibility for stretching breaks and medical appointments, have allowed him to thrive in his position. “I cannot see myself working anywhere else,” says Enoch. “PRIDE is different because they see you as more than just an employee, but as a person. The professionalism and teamwork exhibited by my colleagues make working here pleasant.”

Looking toward the future, Enoch is aiming to get into a management position. His mother recently relocated from El Paso from Brooklyn, and he proudly bought her a vehicle. Enoch hopes to have to rest of his family relocate to El Paso to reunite and to eventually purchase a home.

“I always feel respected as an employee, and greatly enjoy my job and coworkers. When you do what you love, and you never work a day in your life,” says Enoch. “I get to do this.”

We are glad to have veterans such as Enoch be a part of the team at PRIDE Industries, and help them to achieve their new goals and dreams.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Ron Adams

pride-industries-_-ronleyadams_editedRonly “Ron” Adams grew up in the small community of Dothan, Alabama. After graduating high school, he worked in the healthcare field. Although he earned a paycheck, Ron found himself longing to be part of a bigger calling. Deciding to serve his country, Ron enlisted in the Marine Corps in 2006.

Ron soon moved to North Carolina for basic training. These preparations were both mentally and physically challenging but made him ready for the next step. When volunteers were asked to deploy to Iraq in 2007, Ron raised his hand. “The attacks of 9/11 were still fresh in my mind and heart, and I wanted to defend my country,” says Ron. “I was nervous but excited; this is what I signed up for.”

In the Marine Corps, Ron served as an E3 Lance Corporal. In this role, he drove in a convoy for long trips across the country, clearing roads of IEDs (improvised explosive devices). This work was dangerous but necessary; these weapons were responsible for a majority of the deaths to service members in Iraq.

“While traveling out with the convoys, we got to meet and be friendly with the civilians. I passed out candy and muffins to the kids,” says Ron. “It was here where I observed how much freedom we have in the United States. We have so much to be grateful for.”

After serving a one-year tour in Iraq, Ron returned home to Alabama. Even though he had returned with a greater appreciation for life in America, transitioning to a civilian life proved to be difficult. “It took a while for me to adjust; I sometimes thought that it would be easier to re-deploy,” says Ron. “However, with time, I began to heal.” With the winding down of his military career in 2010, Ron began searching for a new career path.

Finding employment turned out to be another obstacle to civilian life. Before coming to PRIDE Industries, Ron worked a series of jobs with no benefits. A friend recommended that he apply for opportunities at PRIDE’s contract at Fort Rucker, Alabama. Ron got in touch with Stephany Marshall, PRIDE’s Rehabilitation Counselor at Fort Rucker. She recommended him for a Maintenance Trades Helper position, and Ron was hired in 2014.

Due to his hard work and drive to succeed, Ron excelled in his new job. Wanting to advance, he decided to go for a pest control position. For several months, Ron diligently studied and passed the tests to earn his pest control license and gained the promotion. This position came with not only a higher paycheck but also greater independence and satisfaction in his work.

“After leaving the military, I missed being in the Marines. This feeling has continued, but working for PRIDE makes me feel at home,” says Ron. “My job on base gives me a sense of comradery and an opportunity to support the military.”

Recently, Ron purchased a home and a new vehicle and is resettling into civilian life with his wife and three children. “With this job position, I have been able to help my family out financially while continuing to participate in military life. I could not imagine being anywhere else.”

From all of us at PRIDE Industries, thank you, Ron, for your service and contributions to our country. We are proud to have you as a colleague.

Saluting Those Who Serve: Javier Heredia

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“I have always wanted to be a soldier and serve my country.” Following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, Javier Heredia enlisted in the US Army as soon as he graduated from high school in El Paso, Texas. He served from 2010-2015, including a deployment in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan, Javier worked as an SPC 13F Forward Observer. In this demanding position, the soldier keeps track of the positions of both friendly troops and opposing forces. They also go behind enemy lines to keep track of movements and to provide the right coordinates for fire. Javier completed his tour of duty in 2015 and returned to his hometown where he was stationed at Fort Bliss, TX. Because of his disability, he was medically discharged and retired from the Army.

After retirement, Javier had no source of income or a job. “I would send in application over application without luck. I filed for unemployment and food stamps just to make sure I had money and food to support my wife and daughters,” says Javier. After receiving no offers of employment, he became even more anxious about his situation. Javier contemplated pursuing a security guard job until he received a call from for an interview with PRIDE Industries. Two weeks later, he was officially employed.

In March 2016, Javier joined the PRIDE Industries team at Fort Bliss, as a Property and Fleet Clerk, where PRIDE provides facilities support services through the federal AbilityOne Program. Javier helps operations run smoothly on base by managing tool and equipment inventory, property management and vehicle maintenance. “I could not ask for a better job. Supporting a military base has helped create a smoother transition to civilian life” says Javier.  “Even though I am still learning, I always feel like a respected member of the team; everyone has an important part to contribute to PRIDE’s mission.”

With a steady job, Javier now aims to buy a house. His long-term plan is to attend college and study military history to become a teacher. Meanwhile, he would like to keep learning new skills through his job at PRIDE and expand his knowledge of his trade. “PRIDE has supported me with excellent training and motivated me to succeed,” says Javier. “It is a great company. Working here has had a very positive effect on my life.”

We thank you, Javier, for your service. PRIDE Industries is proud to support veterans such as Javier through their transition to civilian life while pursuing their careers and dreams.

In Honor of Our Fallen Heroes

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“And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.” ~Lee Greenwood

On Monday, May 30th – Memorial Day – we pause and remember the brave women and men who have made the ultimate sacrifice while protecting our freedom.

At PRIDE Industries, we create jobs for people with disabilities. Our mission includes veterans who return with physical, emotional, and mental scars which create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency. We also work to provide an opportunity for those who simply have difficulty rejoining the workforce. On this Memorial Day, we welcome our returning veterans and honor our fallen heroes.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

Memorial Day 2015

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On Memorial Day, we honor the men and women who have died while serving in the United States military.

PRIDE Industries’ mission is to create jobs for people with disabilities – including veterans. We serve individuals who return with physical, emotional, and mental health disabilities that create obstacles to employment and self-sufficiency.  At PRIDE, we welcome our returning veterans.  This Memorial Day, we honor our fallen heroes, pausing for a moment to consider the heroic sacrifice made by brave women and men who protect the rights and liberties we enjoy.

Happy Memorial Day to all.

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program

PRIDE’S INTERNSHIP PROGRAM

Beginning a new career or re-entering the workforce is difficult for anyone. Individuals with disabilities, including veterans, often have an even harder time finding employment – and not for a lack of desire or willingness to work.

People with disabilities face unemployment at a rate four times greater than the general population. Veterans with disabilities often face a wide range of challenges, including translating military service skills into the civilian workplace.

PRIDE Industries’ Employment Services Internship Program provides a path for people with disabilities, including veterans to get their foot in the door or a fresh start in a new career. As a nonprofit social enterprise, PRIDE is nationally recognized for its expertise in empowering people to attain meaningful employment and increased independence despite the challenges they face. PRIDE serves individuals with a range of disabilities, including physical disabilities, sensory impairments, developmental and intellectual disabilities, and mental illness.

PRIDE’s internship program offers up to 250 hours of paid work experience within PRIDE or with a community employer. Through the internship, individuals get hands-on experience and gain soft skills while working in a safe and supportive environment. For people with little to no work experience, it provides a good resume builder.

In 2014, PRIDE provided 50 paid internship totaling more than 6,000 hours. The internship program is funded by generous donations made to PRIDE Industries Foundation. Many interns have achieved full-time employment. Following are a few stories of interns who successfully made the transition from intern to full-time employee.

SEAN ARTHUR

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ SeanSean served in the Marine Corps from 2012 – 2014 as an Infantry Assaultman. While serving, Sean took friendly fire from a rocket launcher. “I now suffer from PTSD, partial hearing loss, two herniated discs in my lower back and a piece of metal in my knee,” says Sean.

When he returned home and healed, Sean started looking for employment. For seven months, Sean searched for opportunities. Despite his sacrifice for our country, Sean found it impossible to get a foot in the door to begin a new career.

His luck changed when he met with Frank Goehringer, PRIDE’s Veterans Liaison and Chris Chau, Referral Specialist. “They showed me all the opportunities that PRIDE had to offer with their internship program, and told me about their mission of hiring veterans and people with disabilities,” says Sean.

In September 2014, Sean began his paid internship with PRIDE’s manufacturing department. By December 2014, Sean was hired as a full-time production trainer at PRIDE Industries.

BARBARA BORIS

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ BarbaraDisability can affect anyone at any time through illness or injury. In 2011, Barbara was injured on the job. Her employer refused to make accommodations for her disability and let her go.

Determined to find a new career, Barbara reached out to the Department of Rehabilitation. While attending a job club session, Barbara connected with Debbie Tomlinson, a job developer at PRIDE Industries.

Debbie and Barbara worked on improving her resume, cover letter and practiced interviewing skills while helping with the job search. Barbara’s enthusiasm for helping others was hard to miss; Debbie knew she would be a great fit at PRIDE. Debbie arranged an interview for a paid clerical internship.

In July 2014, Barbara began working at PRIDE as an intern. A few months later, she was hired as a permanent employee. As a Clerical Assistant, Barbara provides support to PRIDE’s Integrated Facilities Services business operations department.

JOSHUA BEST

PRIDE Industries_Internship program_ JoshuaIn 2013, Joshua graduated from college with a degree in computer information systems. Many college graduates have a difficult time finding that first job. Josh’s efforts were further complicated by the fact that he is Autistic.

Eager to find opportunity, Josh connected with the local Department of Rehabilitation and they referred him to PRIDE Industries. Soon after, Josh began working with PRIDE’s Employment Services. A job developer, and coach assisted Josh with interview training and job skills development.

After a few months of searching, Josh landed a paid internship with PRIDE’s IT department. “It was awesome!” says Josh. He became part of PRIDE’s technical support center.

Hard work and dedication paid off; recently Joshua became a permanent full-time PRIDE Industries employee in the IT department.

For more about Joshua’s Journey to PRIDE, click here.

HOW TO GET REFERRED

Individuals seeking services are encouraged to visit PRIDE’s website at prideindustries.com/people/how-to-get-referred. To assist parents, caregivers and individuals seeking supports and services, PRIDE has a dedicated referral specialist with vast knowledge of social services, our partners and of course, PRIDE.

Our specialist also coordinates PRIDE’s internship program referrals. So far this year, she has helped 17 individuals gain paid internships.

For more information or referrals to PRIDE’s internship program, please email our Referral Program Coordinator at referrals@prideindustries.com.

Employment Services for Veterans

American Heroes II

PRIDE Industries is lucky to have a dedicated volunteer Board of Directors. To keep board members connected to our mission and understanding the impact of their work, we share stories of success with them when they meet quarterly.  Dwayne Russell and Rey Javar – both veterans – were kind enough to speak with them about their journeys to PRIDE.

Dwayne Russell01Dwayne Russell, a decorated veteran, served in the Navy from 2004-2008. He was embedded with the Marines as a corpsman in the medic unit, serving a tour of duty in Iraq where he evacuated wounded warriors, saving Marines’ lives.

Dwayne struggled with employment and became homeless after completing his service. He was referred to PRIDE Industries by Volunteers of America (VOA) in Sacramento, a nonprofit partner which focuses on housing and stability, while PRIDE provides employment training programs. VOA found Dwayne housing; PRIDE’s Employment Services team supported Dwayne in his effort to secure permanent work. He earned a position on PRIDE’s contract at McClellan Commissary. However, the next hurdle was securing a reliable means of transportation. Case Manager, Amanda E. reached out to PRIDE Industries Foundation. Thanks to your support and generous contributions, Dwayne now gets to work on a newly purchased bicycle – a small, but critical thing to ensure stability at work.

Rey Javar_01Rey Javar served in the U.S. Army from 1969-1972. He served in Vietnam where he earned two Bronze Stars, the military’s fourth highest medal for bravery and courageousness under fire.

Rey had been unemployed for three years when he found PRIDE Industries. He had applied for numerous jobs without success. Anyone will tell you that the longer you are out of work, the harder it is to get back in. Rey was referred to PRIDE’s Employment Services program where Tracy L., a Job Developer, worked with him on his resume, interviewing skills and attended job clubs. Within a few weeks Rey had impressed our PRIDE team at the Sacramento International Airport – Terminal B where he was hired as a custodian. He is a valued member of our team and recently celebrated his one year anniversary at PRIDE Industries. Congratulations Rey!

These success stories are made possible thanks to generous contributions from Sierra Health Foundation, Wells Fargo, Teichert Foundation, and Bank of America supporting PRIDE’s employment services for veterans. For more information about PRIDE Industries Foundation and our programs, visit: prideindustriesfoundation.org/programs.

Kovit’s Story

By Guest Blogger, Kovit Markklam, Quality Control & Safety Inspector, Naval Base Ventura County, Port Hueneme

Kovit’s team members rave about him. “Exudes a level of professionalism, positivity, and approachability.” “Kovit is not afraid to address sensitive, important issues at the site to facilitate awareness and change.” “ Kovit is a major player in the overall health and well-being of the site he supports.”

He offered to tell us a little about his journey to PRIDE. We share it here:

Kovit_M“I am a Navy (Seabees) veteran; I gave 20 years of service. When I was in active duty; PRIDE Industries used to clean our office and shops at Port Hueneme in Southern California. I remember saying, “thank you” to one of the custodians, but I did not get a response – only a smile. At the time, I did not know PRIDE was a company that creates jobs and hires people with disabilities. Later, I discovered that PRIDE had hearing-impaired employee, among others. I thought that was unique and cool.

I was born in Korat, Thailand and raised in the U.S. since the age of about five. When I was very young, we lived in Thailand and we were very poor. It was the way of life there and I did not know any better. Then we move to the States and I grew up as a military brat (Air Force). Life was better here.

In the States, I was fortunate to have teachers and friends who helped us. As a kid, I noticed children with special needs were often bullied and they could not speak up for themselves. I have a younger brother with a learning disability. So I stood up for him and them.

In my late 20’s, I visited my grandmother in Thailand for the first time. I was shocked to see her living conditions. I was heartbroken to see her living in a shack by the railroad track. She had no running water, electricity, stove, or bathroom, and the roof was made of scrap lumber and tin. Unfortunately, she died two weeks after I left. I didn’t know she was living like that. I’ve felt guilty ever since.

That is how I got into working with communities and giving back as much as I can. It makes me feel good to make others feel good. During my last five years of my Navy career, I was stationed on an island called Diego Garcia south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean. I was the Leading Petty Officer for all the First Class Petty Officers and I was part of the Quality of Life Committee. We would try to make life better for everyone who worked and lived on the island.

In the Navy, we did many community projects, such as rebuilding schools, providing showers to the homeless, and more. I wanted to give back, so I volunteered my time for food drives, Habitat for Humanity, and the Boy Scouts of America. I even received the “Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.”

When I finished my Navy career and heard there was an opening at PRIDE, I jumped at the chance to work for this company. For the last three years, I have been a Quality Control & Safety Inspector on PRIDE Industries’ contract at Naval Base Ventura.

I have always been a people person, even though I did not start out like that. I was a shy kid. People motivate me. Quality of life is very important to me, and I want to assist in any way I can. Everyone has the right to feel wanted, to belong, and to be treated equally. I want to help others so that they can help themselves, and in return, maybe pay it forward to someone else. I don’t know if I have made much change since I’ve been at PRIDE, but I do hope to make an impact on someone’s life here – even if it’s a small impact.”

 

Individuals like Kovit who dedicate themselves to others make an impact on all of us. We are glad that he has found a place with PRIDE.