Vunnara’s Story – Supported Employment

Before Vunnara came to LifeWorks NW, she was living in a constant state of anxiety. Daily activities like grocery shopping or riding the bus were a challenge for her because she was extremely hesitant to leave her house. She was unemployed, but in the past had enjoyed working in a retail store and had the goal of finding a part-time position. The car she had wasn’t running and she couldn’t take public transportation due to her extreme anxiety. She felt completely hopeless.

When Vunnara began working with her LifeWorks NW supported employment specialist they would only meet at Vunnara’s home, taking things very slow. They started to look at part time jobs in the retail industry. In August she was offered a job near her home in a store she really liked. She was happy and scared at the same time. Her supported employment specialist went with her to get new tires and followed her to the mechanic to have her car fixed. LifeWorks NW had offered to pay for her eyeglasses, but instead they used that money to help her repair her car and Vocational Rehabilitation paid for her glasses.

Once she began working, she had a lot of anxiety around learning the job, so her supported employment specialist agreed to work every shift with her at first. The management at the store was very supportive and allowed it. By the end of the month, she felt confident and was able to work on her own. Her supported employment specialist came to visit and check in with the manager once a week. They also met outside of work every other week to have time to talk openly about the job and do any job coaching she felt she needed.

After four months she was informed her store was closing and she would be terminated. She didn’t want this to happen so we helped her apply for a transfer to a store in Hillsboro. The manager of the Hillsboro store told her she was by far the best candidate she had interviewed (over 10 others had applied for a transfer to this store as well) and she was very excited to have Vunnara work for her.

Vunnara is now working for the store in Hillsboro and her supported employment specialist only stops by once a week to check in with her. She is extremely happy in her new store and has really blossomed since beginning employment. She recently told us she expects to retire from this company as she really loves the work and the people! With the help of LifeWorks NW, Vunnara was able to manage her extreme anxiety and live a happy productive life.

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