Sandra Conley joined Disability Advocates of Kent County in June, 2020 as a Veteran Apprentice with the hope of learning skills that will help her find meaningful employment. The Veteran Apprentice program provides services and assistance needed to enable veterans with service-connected disabilities to achieve maximum independence in daily living. This program also provides the tools necessary for obtaining and maintaining suitable employment.
In February, 2019 Sandra endured a 14 hour surgery on her heart to regulate her pacemaker. Through the months of her recovery, she became discouraged hearing from so many about what she can’t do rather than what she can. After that discouraging time, she told herself that she had made it through the surgery for a reason, and said to herself “I am better than this.” She believed that the best years of her life were ahead of her and told her doctor “I am ready to go back to work.”
Sandra served in the US Army for 11 ½ years. Because of her service she was eligible for benefits through the Veterans Administration, and she took advantage of that help. Since she had been off work for quite a while, she knew she needed to upgrade her skills and get some experience in today’s workplace. Her Case Manager from the VA suggested Disability Advocates Veteran Apprentice program, she applied and was accepted into the program.
In the two months that Sandra has worked here, she has become part of our family and as she says “I am doing the best I can and trying to learn more.” She has accompanied our OT team on home visits and delivery of equipment to help folks become safer in their own homes. One visit was to deliver a knee scooter to a woman who had just had hip surgery. As Sandra was helping explain how to use it, she felt water dripping on her. She looked up and the woman was crying. “You just made my day. Now I can get around my house without pain.” And Sandra responded “Helping other is what I do.”
Sandra will be with us for a year. “The experience here is overwhelming and my confidence is coming back. The idea that I can help someone else feel better is wonderful.” She is excited to continue to learn new skills and be able to demonstrate that compassion she has for others. And that second phone number – Sandra says her goal is to add a work phone number to her home number – just like most other people. And we believe she will!
To learn more about our Vocational Rehab program along with other Veteran Supports click here.