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June 7, 2022

Celebrating 15 Years of Service: Brian Rocks Supported Employment

Employment Solutions Client Brian Graham with colleagues

“Brian loves Elvis.”

So says the mother of Brian Graham, who works as a shredder in the Employment Solutions program at The Arc of the Ozarks. 

He has been to Graceland twice, she continues. During a family visit to the Memphis landmark for Brian’s 40th birthday, one of the DJs invited him to come into the radio studio. That turned out to be the highlight of the trip.

When he isn’t rocking out to his favorite music legend, Brian can be found going to different offices around Springfield to pick up paper to be shredded. He loves seeing other people working in the various businesses, and he’s especially proud of how many bags he can shred in a single shift. Brian has been working as a shredder since he began his employment back in 2006. 

Employment First Means Opportunity

Brian is very proud of having his “own” office, according to his mom. 

Through his work in the Shred and Recycling area, Brian has met several people and built positive working relationships with them. He began with a small home shredder and over the years he has grown to be an Allegheny J-45 Shredder expert.

As an Employment First organization, The Arc provides job information and guidance to Brian and other people with developmental disabilities. This empowers them to make informed career choices and achieve desired life outcomes.  

The Missouri Division of Developmental Disabilities adopted Employment First in partnership with community provider agencies like The Arc, along with individuals supported by the Division and other state and local funding agencies. Our Employment Solutions team encourages individuals to build job skills while earning a paycheck, both here at The Arc and in the community.

  • Our Shred and Recycling area employs 10 individuals, including Brian. They work hard both on location and in the community working at OTC. They spend time giving back to our community providing shred to the zoo and local pet stores.    
  • The Arc Detail Shop employs six individuals currently. Over the last year we had one individual who worked in our detail shop and moved on to work in another state! He built the confidence and skills to not only move to another state but to find competitive employment.
  • Our Food Truck is a popular supported employment opportunity. It currently employs two individuals and has had one individual move on to find his dream job here in Springfield. He learned and developed skills working on the Food Truck, and after six months was ready to find his dream job! 

The Arc also supports many individuals through Vocational Rehabilitation every year. Our Springfield, Monett, and Joplin divisions help over 100 people find jobs in their communities each year.  For example, one individual we supported through both Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Mental Health recently found his first job, with support from his home staff who went the extra mile to become a job coach. 

Over the past two years, Employment Solutions has worked hard to provide Supported Employment opportunities during what has been some challenging times. Our team hopes to continue to move forward and provide even greater opportunities to job seekers this year. 

Enrichment, Growth & Meaning

“We envision communities embracing those with developmental differences into their workforce and providing the opportunity to live a life they dream of,”  says Angela Johnson, Director of Community Connections and Employment Solutions. 

Employment brings enrichment, personal growth, and meaning to our lives. Those with disabilities are no different. Supported employment professionals and Employment First advocates are instrumental in breaking down barriers that may inhibit a person with a disability from achieving their employment goals and reaching their fullest potential.

Thanks to supported employment opportunities, Brian has set an example for the employment team by offering his many years of service and dedication to his job. He has one of those personalities that everyone wants to be around. He puts a smile on everyone’s faces by wiggling his eyebrows, calling his job coaches “grandmas” and, of course, through his jam sessions with Elvis.

Job coaches have even drawn straws to be able to work with him! 

During his down time, Brian spends time with his family, including his nieces and nephew. He loves going to the lake, where he enjoys boating and tubing on Table Rock and savoring a delicious slice of pizza.

At The Arc, we encourage every staff member to be an Employment First advocate. By  supporting individuals like Brian with obtaining their dream jobs, we empower more people with disabilities to direct their own lives and participate fully in our community.

Eligibility for Employment Solutions is determined by a referral from either the Department of Mental Health or Vocational Rehabilitation. If you’d like to learn more, we encourage you to call us at 417-864-7887 or reach out to us online.