Success Stories & Testimonials
Keith Allison, 2016 Client of the Year
Keith Allison first joined us at Life’sWork of Western PA in 2013 for a Vocational Evaluation. From there he joined the Mobile Work Crew and did community based assessments through Edith L. Trees Charitable Trust. Keith feels that one of the reasons he was so successful was due to the fact that he was able to take full advantage of the services at Life’sWork. His community based assessment was at ReStore with Habitat for Humanity. It was his success with ReStore that led him to his search for completive employment.
When he applied to the McDonald’s Restaurant in Pleasant Hills, Keith’s counselor was concerned about him working in such a fast paced environment and suggested Keith
start there under his grant funded program. However, the McDonald’s management saw something in him and decided to give Keith an opportunity for employment. Keith did so well right from the start that the McDonald’s management offered him a permanent position. He has excellent attendance and has great interaction with all the customers. Keith has continued to work at the McDonald’s since June, 2014.
Keith has been independently maintaining his employment at the restaurant, with occasional follow-up appointments from his counselor at Life’sWork.
Prior to his arrival in Pittsburgh and at Life’sWork, Keith lived in Modesto, California. While living in California, he spent over a decade working for Pizza Hut. Keith started participating in the Special Olympics at age eight competing in track, soccer, basketball, and more, earning four Gold Medals in track. When he’s not working, Keith helps babysit his two young nieces.
Theresa Curry, 2015 Client of the Year
Theresa Curry was originally referred to Life’sWork through OVR in July 2010 where she was enrolled in the Customer Service Representative training program. After completion of the program, she began working at Owen’s Dry Cleaners as a customer service representative where she helped welcome the customers to the store, receive and process their garments, and complete financial transactions. Theresa enjoyed her job, however; business was slow and after devoting a year there she decided that she wasn’t making enough money and resigned.
In 2013 she decided to pursue a new career path devoted to serving others. Of course this wasn’t new to Theresa because she’s always had a generous spirit.She has and continues to volunteer at the Salvation Army Toy Drive every Christmas, is a youth counselor in her community, and runs her own personal day care Monday through Friday in the evenings.
Theresa and her OVR counselor decided that a Peer Support Counselor would be the perfect fit her, therefore she began her training in January of 2013. She reported that the training was a rewarding experience for her however, after graduation she could not find a job. Theresa has always been a positive person, but her morale started to decline after not being able to find work for almost a year.
Things stated to change however, when she started to work with her new Employment Specialist Lindsey Smith in May 2014. Theresa expressed her goal of wanting to be a Peer Support Specialist. Within the next few weeks Lindsey was able was able to connect with Amanda Bloxam who is the Human Resource Specialist for the agency PSAN (Peer Support and Advocacy Network). Over the next four weeks, Theresa went through a series of interviews and background checks and on June 18th Theresa began her orientation to work part-time on the Peer Support Hotline.
On June 25th Theresa told Lindsey that she thoroughly enjoyed her position at PSAN and in addition she planned on enrolling in the Drug and Alcohol Training program at CCAC to become a D&A youth counselor. With the help of OVR, Theresa was able to begin classes in August and in June of 2015 she will receive a diploma in Drug and Alcohol Training. Both Theresa’s counselor Kim Davis and Human Resource Coordinator Amanda Bloxam have stated how proud they are of Theresa’s accomplishments.
Theresa reported to Lindsey on November 26th that she’s been promoted to mobile peer support specialist where she now has face-to-face contact with her clients on a weekly basis.As much as she enjoys face-to-face contact, she still reserves one day a week to work the hotline. When asked what she plans on doing with her Drug and Alcohol training, she reported that she plans on using that knowledge to become a more effective Peer Support Specialist. Theresa has found her niche in life and doesn’t plan on leaving PSAN any time soon.
Verna Leasher, 2014 Client of the Year
Verna Leasher started with Life’sWork two decades ago. Since that day in November of 1993, she has held many positions at Life’sWork and outside in the community. Verna has a disability but has not let that stop her from excelling in her employment. At Life’sWork, she started out in the production area, then the mobile janitorial crew and then on to Gamma Sports.
Verna works for Life’sWork during the off months but spends her summers in her position at Kennywood. She has been with Kennywood for 11 years now. The past five years she has independently applied for and received her position. Her job now is working at the Potato Patch, one of the busiest areas of the park. There Verna serves hungry adults and kids all day. She has also worked at Kennywood as a Dietary Aid and in the General Labor area.
This past summer, Verna was named Kennywood’s “Most Outstanding Team Member” during the month of August for her great guest service and excellent attitude toward guests. Verna always has a smile on her face and is very pleasant and helpful when directing guests. “I’m nice to people. I tell them to have a nice day and I smile at everyone,” Verna said. She will start her 12th summer with Kennywood this spring. Verna enjoys coming to Life’sWork everyday and getting to work alongside friends. She is a wonderful part of our family.
Delvin Turner, 24, grew up just a short distance from Life’sWork in the Hill District. “I was always aware of the great work Life’sWork did, having had several family members go through the program,” he said.
Prompted by those same family members, when he was 13 Delvin entered the Life’sWork Project Choice program as a shy and introverted pre-teen. He was later referred to the Ben and Jerry’s Training program which has proven to help youth become more focused, have higher self-esteem, and develop socially.
Through the Ben and Jerry’s program Delvin not only thrived but he exceeded expectations by becoming a trainer to his peers, taking on leadership responsibilities, and embracing his status as a role model for other participants, eventually moving up to an assistant manager.
The confidence Delvin developed transferred to his educational pursuits where he funded his tuition at Central Catholic High School through an academic scholarship and while a senior at La Salle University was selected as one of 20 students to attend the Trials Program at Harvard University’s Law School.
Upon graduation Delvin returned to Life’sWork not as a program participant but as a youth counselor. “Life’sWork set me in the right direction to achieve success and now I want to help others accomplish their goals,” he says.
He studies civil rights law at UCLA and said at a young age, while learning about Thurgood Marshall, he realized that through the practice of law he could fight against the racial inequalities he witnessed around him. Generational poverty, education levels, employment, crime and incarceration are just a few of the issues he hopes to address in his future endeavors as a civil rights lawyer.
Everyone at Life’sWork is confident in his determination and work ethic to accomplish all the goals he sets for himself. And while Delvin is quick to thank his counselors, Angela Huffman and Randy Kienzle as well as Life’sWork’s President and CEO, Everett McElveen for supporting and being a mentor to him, we know that there are many youth that have benefitted from Delvin’s service at Life’sWork.
As someone he looked up to, Thurgood Marshall said, “None of us got where we are by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody- a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony, or a few nuns- bent down and helped us pick up our boots.”
With three older brothers and three older sisters all living in different states you can just imagine how well traveled John Petritis must be. However, when it comes to his attendance at work, it is a whole other story. Even when his father and mother try to take a long weekend with him so he can enjoy one of his favorite hobbies or visit a family member, John puts his foot down and says no because that would mean that not only would he miss work on Friday but he would miss pay day as well.
John has a mental health disability and after graduating high school at the age of 21 he was referred to the Life’sWork Belle Vernon office to help him achieve employment. Like with any new job, one barrier that John experienced was simply getting acclimated to the work environment. In an effort to find employment that fit what John was interested in and could be successful with, he participated in a Community Based Assessment (CBA) at the local Dollar General. While the CBA was successful, John decided that retail was just not his calling and he wanted to go back to Life’sWork to work in the workshop.
When asked what his favorite part about working is, John said that he likes to get up early and go to work with his friends. His favorite job to work on is the metal work done in the workshop for All-Clad Metal Crafters LLC. Not only does he say he likes working with metal but he likes that he makes “a lot of money” doing it. By far his favorite day of the week is Friday because he gets his paycheck and can take his family out to dinner.
When John is not at work he keeps very busy. He recently participated in the Special Olympics and medaled for his skills in golf. John has been playing golf, bowling, basketball and track and field since he was 9 years old. He is also a member of the Knights of Columbus and volunteers on a regular basis at his church and at the Vacation Land Campground.
“John has a great work ethic and loves coming to work,” said Cindi Power, John’s vocational counselor at Life’sWork. “During his employment years at Life’sWork he has accomplished a great sense of independence and skill knowledge and can perform most of the jobs assigned.”