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Employment

Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant

Make a difference in the lives of others and feel good about your work!  Disability Advocates of Kent County, a respected, non-profit Organization, is seeking a part time (20 hours per week), Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, (COTA) position for the organization.

Position Summary

This position provides direct support to the Occupational Therapy Manager and the Occupational Therapy Team.  The COTA will support all phases of the department services.  Supports provided will be typical of tasks performed by a COTA, including intake interviews, information and referral, Independent Living (IL) Plan implementation and follow up, finalizing reports and documenting data, as well as the management of the equipment loan closet. View entire job description: Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant (COTA) Job Description

Attributes:

  • Commitment to and knowledge of Independent Living movement and philosophy.
  • Interpersonal skills and ability to participate in and work to build a collaborative team.
  • Ability to follow direction and take initiative with exceptional time management and organizational skills.
  • Accountability to consumer confidentiality.
  • A positive, strong, credible professional and interpersonal relationship with all parties relevant to Disability Advocates activities, and representing the best interests of Disability Advocates at all times.

Education/Experience

  • Associate Degree in Occupational Therapy Assistant required, with 3-5 years experience, especially in the home and community setting.
  • Current certification as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant
  • Persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply. 

Read about the benefits of working for our organization here

If interested, please send your resume and cover letter to: humanresources@dakc.us or Disability Advocates of Kent County, Attn:  Human Resources, 3600 Camelot Drive SE, Grand Rapids, MI  49546. Resumes will be accepted through May 24, 2021.  EOE

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Your Gift Makes a Difference!

“Disability Advocates not only advocates for you, they help you be better at advocating for yourself.” 

Kristen Kelling knows. She first visited Disability Advocates of Kent County in 2016 after she had graduated from college. At that time, she participated in the Employability class especially enjoying the interactive nature of the sessions. As a person with a visual impairment, Kristen was anxious to know how best to put her college degree to work. Kristen remembered, “In the class, you didn’t just sit and learn; you practiced it and really learned!”   

Shortly after participating in the Employability class, Kristen started volunteering by placing Braille on Disability Advocates’ business cards. After that, she helped our Advocacy team with workshops that covered subjects like transportation and housing issues for persons with disabilities. 

And when you are a great volunteer (so much so that she was named “Volunteer of the Year” in 2017), more assignments come your way! Kristen became a front desk volunteer and then became active with our advocacy efforts such as when she spoke at Disability Advocates’ legislative coffees to ensure that our state representatives and other local elected leaders are fully aware of the challenges faced by and concerns of persons with disabilities along with the solutions she and others proposed. 

When Disability Advocates’ Absolutely Accessible Kent project started rolling through the streets of downtown Grand Rapids, it is no surprise that Kristen became involved. One event had Kristen working with a group of four with disabilities of all kinds and a few design professionals. They walked and rolled from the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. office to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel to check the accessibility of the entire hotel. “It was interesting to collaborate with folks with other disabilities.”   

Kristen thoroughly enjoys her work with Disability Advocates (and, like all of us, can’t wait to get back to the office and into the community in 2021!). She says she was a shy young woman when she first came to Disability Advocates and she didn’t know she could advocate for herself. “Disability Advocates gave me the tools for my toolbox to do better for myself.” 

“Give Disability Advocates a call. They will help you or they will know where you can get the help you need,” Kristen advises.

Your financial gifts allow Disability Advocates of Kent County to provide these opportunities and services to persons with disabilities and to work to improve our community’s accessibility for all. As we close out 2020 and look forward to an exciting 2021, we ask you to please consider supporting this important work. Donate here.
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Always Keep Climbing

Susan* was just starting her attempt to climb out of a deep hole when she turned to Disability Advocates of Kent County for help. For years, she had faced severe mental health conditions. In this journey, she had been hospitalized, tried many kinds of treatments, experienced suicidal depression and even tried to take her own life.

Because of her disease, she hung out with what some would call “the wrong crowd” through those years. Her home furnishings were destroyed as a result and she nearly lost her home because she was unable to make her mortgage payment. As Susan says, “I had destroyed my life as I knew it.” 

After her attempted death by suicide, she was hospitalized again and received the medication and treatment she needed to begin the climb out of her hole. It was at this time, she realized that one of her friends had already helped her sign up for and receive Social Security Disability benefits. Unfortunately, it was all too confusing – she did not grasp the basic requirements of being a beneficiary, for example, she did not understand what she could and couldn’t do while receiving the benefits. Susan and her best friend, John*, came to Disability Advocates for help demystifying the benefits that were so hard to comprehend. At Disability Advocates, she met with Chloe, one of our Benefits Specialists, but surprisingly enough, that was not the first time she had met Chloe. Turns out Susan and Chloe actually worked together a few years back in a program helping adults with disabilities. Now, she needed Chloe’s help and Chloe was ready to work alongside Susan.

Chloe was able to help Susan and John navigate the ins and outs of receiving the disability benefits. Most importantly, knowing that Susan did want to go back to work when she was ready, Chloe helped her understand how future part-time work might affect the benefits. Susan said, “We felt a huge weight off our shoulders after talking with Chloe… Her help gave me the confidence to go on.”

Through much self-determination, getting on the right medications, receiving the treatment she needed, and learning how her benefits worked and that she could go back to work part time,  Susan began to put her life back together again. She started volunteering, took yoga classes, and realized she was ready and eligible for a part-time job. Today, Susan works as a Peer Support Specialist helping folks with extra life challenges receive the help they need. We are glad that we were here when Susan asked for help. Now, we are asking for yours. 

Your help is needed so that we can continue to provide these crucial services. Please consider a gift of support for Disability Advocates of Kent County, you can donate here.
PS – Due to the CARES Act, your gift to Disability Advocates of Kent County may provide added tax benefits for you only in 2020 even if you take the standard deduction. Read more on the IRS website linked here or be sure to check with your tax adviser. 
 

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Impact of Your Support

As you know, to say that 2020 has been an unusual year is an understatement! Yet through it all, people living with disabilities and seniors have reached out to us for help and, thanks to your support, we have been able to provide our support covid-style. 

Our Workforce Development team pivoted and has offered many of our in-person classes through online methods. One class that we offered via Zoom is an employability workgroup specifically for veterans since many of the employment issues are different for veterans. Many veterans come to us with an established set of soft skills like communication, professionalism, and teamwork, while they need our help learning how to network, interview and present who they are in a civilian context. The classes have addressed these skills and have given the veterans an opportunity to discuss issues unique to veterans with other veterans (including the class facilitator).

While the stay at home order in April and May prevented our Occupational Therapy team from conducting assessments of people’s homes to ensure their safety, the team instead mailed needed equipment to them and checked back in with folks we hadn’t seen recently just to ask “Are you doing ok?” As soon as the order was lifted, our OT team was back out assessing homes for safety and making sure folks had the tools and knowledge to continue to live safely and independently in their own home.

Our Nursing Facility Transition Coordinator has helped 8 people transition from a facility to their own home during the pandemic. These people most times had no place of their own to return to, no furniture, bed, dishes, towels, etc. They had nothing but a desire to get into their own home. Our coordinator has been able to find them a place to live that they can afford and then helped them to furnish it the way that they wanted. All this has been done with lots of phone calls and internet shopping, and a true desire to make sure these folks get home.

These are just three examples showing that, even during a pandemic, Disability Advocates strives to meet our mission of working alongside people with disabilities as they seek to lead self-directed lives and to advocate for accessible and welcoming communities. We ask you to consider helping us continue our impact on the lives of folks like those represented in the snapshots above and so many others. Your gift truly makes this impact possible. To donate click here.

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A Bathroom Joe Can Use!

Imagine not being able to take a shower or being able to get on and off the toilet independently. This was a reality that Joe faced daily for 3 years. Joe, a 75 year old gentleman, moved in with his son after having several heart surgeries and a total knee replacement. Disability Advocates was called by Joe’s son after years of him trying to take care of Dad in his inaccessible home. Our Occupational Therapy team did a home evaluation and recommended a ramp and several bathroom modifications including: grab bars, a tub transfer bench, hand-held shower, and a comfort height toilet. We worked with a local contractor in Joe’s area to get the modifications done.

After the work was completed, Joe shared with our staff that prior to the taller toilet being installed, his son had to take him to a nearby restaurant to use the public restroom because he couldn’t get up from the lower toilet in his home. Especially in these COVID-19 times, we are glad you can stay home and use your own bathroom, Joe.

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Get to know Kanisha!

While Thanksgiving 2020 looks different in so many ways, we at Disability Advocates remain steadfast in our gratitude for your support. Thanks to your help, we have been able to continue to work alongside persons with disabilities throughout our community.

Our Pre-Employment Transition team has been no exception. They continue to work with high school and college-aged students who are looking to move ahead in their own lives. Remember how challenging high school was at times? Imagine adding to the usual peer pressure and various other challenges, difficulty learning in a traditional way, and an unstable home environment. It’s easy to imagine how one might fall through the cracks…(or worse). 

Instead, meet Kanisha. She is now 23 years old and employed full time at Spectrum Health. Kanisha plans to take advantage of the tuition assistance recently offered to essential workers to attend school to become a certified medical biller. She believes this is all possible because of the help she received from Disability Advocates of Kent County. “I don’t know where I would be without you.”  

Chloe, one of Disability Advocates’ Independent Living Specialists, met Kanisha while she was in high school. Kanisha was maintaining a 4.0 GPA in school and working, but it was a struggle. She wanted to move out on her own but didn’t know how. 

Disability Advocates helps people with disabilities manage the logistics of everyday life, and that is what Kanisha needed. Chloe was able to connect Kanisha with resources to obtain housing, furniture, and other housing necessities. Through the years, Kanisha has worked with our staff on budgeting, understanding her Social Security benefits, and job preparation including resume writing and interviewing skills.

As Kanisha says, “You provided me with what I needed to be an adult.” 

Today, Kanisha enjoys her job and her family. She is back living at home helping to take care of her mother as she goes through serious health issues, and the rest of the family. In her free time, she likes to give back by feeding folks experiencing homelessness. Quite a special young woman! 

It is such a joy to be able to work with motivated young adults like Kanisha and watch their progress. We look forward to seeing what you do next, Kanisha! To learn more about Disability Advocates programs and services click here.

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Veterans, we want to work with you!

Kent County Veteran Services and Disability Advocates of Kent County have teamed up to provide services to veterans with disabilities and their families. The purpose for this funding is to help veterans that are not eligible for other programs but are still in need. 

Below are some areas of what Disability Advocates can help with. 

Occupational Therapy  

  • Home assessments for accessibility in residential homes based on the needs of the individual.  
  • Coordination with builders and contractors that can implement recommendations  
  • Assistive Technology devices and durable medical equipment  

Additional Independent Living Needs  

  • Financial assistance with rent/deposit, utility bills, or other bills
  • Home repairs for safety purposes 

Employment Related Expenses

  • Car repairs  
  • Tools or clothing necessary for employment 
  • Transportation costs until the person receives their first/next paycheck.  
  • 20-hour job skills workshop* that helps people with disabilities understand their rights under the ADA as well:
    • Helps with resume writing
    • Interviewing
    • Job exploration/shadowing

*New session starts the third Monday of each month. Contact John Koon at 616-323-2249 or by email at john.k@dakc.us  for more about the workshop or to get signed up!

Benefits Planning 

  • For people who are receiving social security disability benefits, Medicare, Medicaid, other state assistance.  
  • Key outcome of this service is for the person to gain an understanding of how your benefits will be impacted if you do go to work.
  • Plan is individualized and specific to each person’s situation

This is not an all-inclusive listing of services that can be provided. Contact Trina Edmondson by phone at 616-323-2203 or by email at trina.e@dakc.us to see if you qualify.

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Monthly Highlight | Veteran Supports

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. 

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Impact Story

How We Are Helping People in Need During COVID-19

Despite the many disruptions caused by COVID-19, including our entire staff working from home, we are fortunate to continue making an impact in our community by helping people live independently.

Izzie is a 37-year-old woman who spent time in ICU with double pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and unspecified respiratory failure, all exacerbated by a bad asthma attack in late March.

After Izzie’s transfer to an area nursing and rehab center, she was connected to Jeanette, our Nursing Facility Transition Services Specialist. Izzie wanted to return to her own home as soon as possible, but did not have family in the area who could help her do so safely.

Thanks to the internet and online shopping skills, in less than two weeks, Jeanette had arranged to have the carpets deep-cleaned to eliminate allergens, furniture delivered, and several needed items purchased online, including an air purifier and humidifier to aid in Izzie’s healthy breathing.

Like many others leaving the hospital or a rehab center, returning to the community with a weakened immune system in the middle of a pandemic was a very real fear for Izzie. We are so happy we were able to help.

Izzie reports she is feeling much better and, not surprisingly, is thrilled to be home! Her gratitude shown through in her numerous messages to Jeanette. “Thank you so much… I was just speaking to my counselor about getting home and your help made it so much easier!”

Learn more about our Nursing Facility Transition program here.