From Endeavors to Employment: Becky’s Confidence Soars
Becky flashes a big smile when she talks about her job at McDonald’s.
Becky wanted a job to challenge and improve herself. Through skills acquired in MOKA’s Group Community Living Supports and at volunteer sites, she gained the confidence to go for it and found a job last summer through MOKA’s Employment Services program. She enjoys working a couple of days a week at the McDonald’s in Jenison, even riding the bus on her own to get there.
“I just felt like I needed more to fulfill my days,” she says. “I wanted to work on my self-esteem a little more.”
She cleans the dining area and wipes down tables and chairs. It’s a good fit for her, as Becky steps up to clean in her Endeavor group, which is part of MOKA’s Community Living Supports program. “I get to cook and I love that,” she says of her Endeavor 3 group. “I love doing the dishes.”
As for skills she has gained that she applies on the job, Becky says, “I think people skills is one of them and learning how to get things accomplished at the right time.”
Becky has participated in MOKA’s Community Living Supports program since 2017 and attends three days a week. She lives in Ottawa County and likes volunteering with Meals on Wheels, Harvest Stand Ministries food pantry, and at Fellinlove Farm. “I walk the llamas,” she says. “I like doing what they ask me to do. I like doing whatever I have to do.”
The Endeavor group works on life and social skills, learning how to cook, shop, meal plan, do laundry, manage finances, and other activities of daily living. Group members discuss personal safety, healthy eating, healthy relationships, good boundaries, and conflict resolution.
They also regularly volunteer at sites in the community, such as Meals on Wheels, Critter Barn, and Fellinlove Farm. The group delivers meals three days a week for Meals on Wheels in Muskegon and Ottawa counties.
“It’s just super meaningful and it’s an important job,” says Laura Spencer, Assistant Program Supervisor in Ottawa County. “And I feel like we’ve gotten to a place where the people in our program have moved from needing assistance to more of a supportive, coaching role.”
On other days, they visit John Ball Zoo, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, area libraries and museums, and they do art projects at Holland Arts Council. “Everything we do, we try to get out into the community as much as possible,” Laura says. “Because we are community based, so even if we have discussions or a money management activity, we’ll try to go out into the community to do those things.”
Becky is always the first to volunteer when asked and is very helpful with others in her group. She enjoys being active, whether it’s cooking or helping in the community.
“Her confidence has just skyrocketed,” Laura says. “It’s really incredible to see, honestly.”
Becky persevered through a lengthy and sometimes challenging job search. She continues to blossom and gain independence on the job, requiring fewer check-ins with her job developer.
“It’s just really cool to see because it definitely trickles into our program with her confidence and her self-esteem being at an all-time high,” Laura says. “I’ve never seen anybody more excited to go to work than Becky.”
Through both MOKA and her job, Becky continues to work on her self-esteem and social skills, adding, “I just felt like I wasn’t challenged enough, so I wanted a little bit more of a challenge to see if I could actually succeed somewhere.”
Laura says Becky’s job has allowed her to showcase her strengths and talents, and she is excelling at work and MOKA. She’s a natural leader in her groups at MOKA, often applying those skills she has learned on the job.
“Especially with cleaning,” Becky adds. “I’m like, ‘Come on guys, let’s go.’ I can’t just sit like that.”
MOKA’s Endeavor groups provide opportunities for persons served to participate in meaningful activities, get out of the house, learn new skills, and have meaningful interactions with peers and community members, Laura says.
At the same time, the group activities and volunteer sites help teach social skills, conflict resolution, good communication skills, and teamwork. Those who participate also learn about self-advocacy and how to ask for help when they need it or connect with other resources.
“A lot of people in our program refer to MOKA as work,” Laura says. “And a lot of people refer to our volunteer sites as work. So, in a way, they kind of teach job skills at the same time – the social skills, good time management, staying on task, and doing a good quality job.”
Becky says accepting help is something she continues to work on, and she is grateful for the job skills and employment she has gained through MOKA. Becky has a separate job developer who supports her if she has issues on the job, but that is becoming less frequent, and she often talks about how things are going with Laura.
“I feel like Becky has just really embodied what we do here,” Laura says. “Because it’s all about gaining that independence.”
Becky’s success exemplifies MOKA’s mission of honoring the individual, encouraging independence and goal setting, and providing a continuum of support.
“We were just having a casual walk down the hall at City on a Hill, and she could not stop gushing about the support with her goals she receives and that she is heard when she talks with mentors and supervisors on how to adjust her goals,” adds Joni McCollum, Program Manager of Community Supports for Ottawa and Muskegon Counties.
Story by Marla Miller. Photos by Lara Parent.