August 2014 Newsletter

August 7th, 2014

In our last issue, we brought you the stories of Seth and Lee, and John and Ramsay, that grew out of the Make a Difference workshops facilitated by Joanne Drewson, sponsored by Roads to Community Living. Our third set of learning partners is Sandy and Melissa, and their story is below.




April 2014 Newsletter

April 11th, 2014


Make a Difference. It?s a simple phrase that means the world to many of us. It is also the title of a workshop that has brought great and small changes to the people who have been participating in it for the last eight months. We?ve been so fortunate to be able to follow a few of these journeys and we?re excited to share them with you.


January 2014 Newsletter

February 5th, 2014

They call him Hawkeye, a nod to his performance on the quality control line at Liberty Bottleworks. Often the final person to inspect the company?s reusable water bottles for flaws, Perry has a knack for spotting even the slightest of defects.


Perry's Story: Job Stability Provides More Than a Paycheck

February 5th, 2014


They call him Hawkeye, a nod to his performance on the quality control line at Liberty Bottleworks. Often the final person to inspect the company?s reusable water bottles for flaws, Perry has a knack for spotting even the slightest of defects.

Perry has been working at the Union Gap, WA manufacturing facility for more than a year, far longer than he has kept any other job. He has found his niche and, in the process, formed friendships and gained a new sense of self-worth and self-reliance.

 Perry landed the job at Liberty Bottleworks after meeting the company?s operation manager, Aaron Collier, at a career fair. Although Aaron collected many resumes at the event, he says Perry stood out as someone who seemed excited to work.

 The new hire started out assembling boxes and then began helping with quality control. The quality control team checks the aluminum bottles for dents, split lips, ink smudges and other blemishes.

 ?Some people have that ability, and some people don?t. Perry is one of those people who really excel in that area. He sees things that other people don?t. I don?t know if he has superhuman eyesight or what, but he finds flaws more often than I?d like,? Aaron says with a laugh.

Perry works 35 hours per week and, like most of his co-workers, ?floats? among departments ? from bottle cap assembly to packing ? in response to production demands. Initially, sluggish hand-eye coordination slowed his cap-building efforts. But with practice, he has become one of the fastest cap makers on the payroll. Given a choice, though, he favors working on the production line, where bottles start to take shape.

 ?I like to make the bottles because it?s cool to see how they come out of the machine,? Perry says.

On the way to the back of the shop, he passes the powder-coating workstation, and a smile lights up his face.

 ?I want to do that,? Perry exclaims, pointing. ?I haven?t done powder coating yet.?

 Perry?s enthusiasm to learn every aspect of the bottle-making process is noted by his supervisors, who praise his eagerness to step up and help wherever needed.

 ?He?s got a great attitude and a great work ethic. He?s here early every day, and I have to kick him out of the building or he won?t go home,? Aaron says, playfully smiling at Perry.

 Perry agrees, ?I?ve been joking around that I don?t want to go home. I?m going to spend the night.?

 After a year on the job, Perry is still excited to come to work every day. That was not the case with his previous employment endeavors. An intellectual developmental disability, anxiety disorder, ADHD and PTSD have made it difficult for Perry to maintain focus in the past, says Mark DeMonbrun, a Service Alternatives program manager who supports Perry with his employment.

 Perry?s prior gigs have included a stint as a dishwasher and work in the agriculture industry. He left some jobs after only a week; a few lasted just a month or so. While these jobs were mundane to Perry, he says he feels very important in his current position because he works hard and does his job well.

 ?This job gives him a sense of accomplishment and some self-worth,? Mark observes. ?In some respects, I think that he believes the company wouldn?t be operating if it wasn?t for him. It just bothers him to no end if he knows the rest of the crew is working on the weekend. He feels like he?s letting them down that he?s not there.?

 Perry is not an isolated worker, but rather very much part of the production team, Aaron says. He fits in well and is treated with respect.

 ?I think he?s found a community that has been so accepting of him. He has this great base of friends, and his coworkers have genuine care for him,? Mark describes, adding that when Perry once missed his ride home from work, numerous coworkers offered to give him a lift.

?I like the people I work with,? Perry says. ?They?re very nice and kind, and they like to joke around.?

 The camaraderie and the feeling of a job well done are worth more to Perry than the paycheck he takes home. But, although money is not what motivates him, a steady income is making a difference in his life. For the first time, the 28-year-old has an apartment all his own.

 Prior to moving into his new place, Perry had been homeless, essentially ? staying with friend after friend and, most recently, his mother. But after becoming connected with Community Living this winter, community support coordinator Tonja Fry helped him find an apartment in a brand new building.

?He seems to be a lot happier since he?s moved into his own apartment. And he?s not as stressed,? Tonja notes.

 Perhaps Perry is most pleased with becoming his own payee ? another first for him. With assistance from staff, Perry keeps an eye on his budget, pays his bills and balances his checkbook. He is no longer receiving Social Security Income benefits and, with the exception of some medical benefits, is completely supporting himself financially.

 ?It feels pretty good that I?m taking a step up in life,? Perry nods.

 When there?s room in his budget, Perry likes to treat himself to Thai food and wants to save up for a trip to Talladega Superspeedway. For now, he is enjoying getting to know his new neighbors and is making plans to go fishing, bowling and to the local racetrack with friends.

 The opportunity to enrich Perry?s life outside of work by means of a paycheck has been a touching experience for his employers, who aim to be community-minded. ?It feels really good,? Aaron shares. ?To find another way to reach into the local community and be a positive influence is huge. It?s not something we expected.?

Last fall, Liberty Bottleworks was honored by the Community Employment Alliance as an ?Outstanding Employer? for its ?exceptional efforts to employ people with disabilities.? Aaron took Perry to the recognition ceremony in Bremerton, WA to accept the award.

 Perry is glad to finally have found a place to be successful. He takes pride in the growth of the company, the quality of its products and the impact of its charitable contributions.

 ?Having a job makes me feel a lot happier because it feels like I?m helping the community,? Perry explains, referring to his employer?s practice of donating bottles that aren?t quite up to snuff (such as those Perry rejects on the quality control table) to disaster relief efforts.

 ?The moral of Perry?s story is there?s a job for everyone,? Mark concludes. ?Sometimes it will just take a little longer to find it.?

 Now that he?s found it, Perry plans to keep it. He wants to stay on the job until he?s 70 or 80.

November 2013 Newsletter

December 5th, 2013

Dressed in a ?DOWN SYNDROME ROCKS? T-shirt, Dylan sets down his drumsticks and picks up a microphone to address the crowd, ?I am the founder of The Jackson Memory Band. Yes, I have Down syndrome, but that?s not going to stop me from being a rock star!?