Denedra Ellis can proudly say she’s living life to the fullest because of her employment. For the first time ever, Denedra has a steady income with full benefits – something that she has been working toward since prior to high school graduation five years ago.
While a student at Vashon High School preparing for graduation in 2009, Denedra was connected to Missouri’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) by her Work Experience Counselor. Due to a developmental disability, Denedra was eligible for both VR services and programming through MERS/Goodwill. As graduation approached, Denedra worked with her VR Counselor, Molly Rois, as well as Logan Weaver with MERS/Goodwill to determine that she was interested in working with people in a healthcare setting.
In the fall of 2009, Denedra enrolled in Goodwill’s Supported Employment Job Development Program, which in addition to completing and following up on applications, also helps participants learn new skills and work behaviors that lead to success in finding and keeping a job. With her Employment Specialist, Denedra applied to several assisted living facilities that were looking to fill open housekeeping positions. The duo created a resume and practiced interviewing skills. Denedra’s hard work paid off; in 2010, she was hired as a part-time housekeeper by Beauvais Manor nursing home.
At Beauvais Manor, with the support of Tony Harrington, a Retention Specialist for MERS/Goodwill, Denedra experienced first-hand the challenges of working in a high-stress environment. Tony met with Denedra every 2-3 weeks to discuss her job performance and anything else that may be impacting her work. As a Retention Specialist, Tony serves as a support system for individuals with disabilities once they are placed in a job. Sometimes, individuals may not have the encouragement in their personal lives to do their best or may need more communication or other support to maintain performance to meet and exceed an employer’s expectations. It’s Tony’s job to fill that gap by demonstrating how to do a job when needed, and continually reminding his clients and their employers that they have the ability to succeed.
As Denedra did well in her job duties at Beauvais Manor, she was ready to seek a full-time job with benefits. Denedra’s biggest obstacle in her transition to full-time employment was learning how to manage her job tasks while overcoming the frustration she felt when confronted with interpersonal drama while on the job.
“Denedra is such a committed worker and loves making a difference in the lives of the patients she interacts with on a day-to-say basis,” said Tony. “She just needed an avenue to mediate the frustrations she experienced while on the job.”
Tony met regularly with Denedra to open up a dialogue on how to successfully negotiate differences of opinion on the job. Working in a healthcare setting is non-stop and sometimes people have bad days, but Denedra soon learned how to cope in a stressful work environment by regularly calling Tony for support and channeling her energy to help patients.
“Denedra blossomed into an excellent worker who not only accomplished her daily tasks but connected with patients on a personal level, making their days much brighter,” said Tony.
When Tony heard about openings through Barnes Jewish Hospital, he immediately thought of Denedra and referred her with a recommendation for a housekeeping position.
On October 6, 2014, Denedra was hired by Barnes Jewish Hospital as a full-time housekeeper with benefits. After just a few months on the job, Denedra not only mastered the position, but did something she never imagined. While cleaning a room one morning, Denedra noticed a patient was unresponsive and immediately called for a nurse and first responders. Her quick thinking likely saved that patient’s life.
Tony and MERS/Goodwill’s Retention Coordinator, Ben Williams, admire Denedra’s ability to thrive in high-stress, high-demand environments. “At the hospital, seconds can mean the difference between life and death, and this can mean tempers are short,” said Ben. “Denedra always maintains her composure and stays focused on the mission at hand: ensuring that patients and medical staff have a clean, safe environment to thrive in.”