Ability Works 2016
Six hard-working West Virginians were honored Oct. 19 for exemplary vocational rehabilitation through the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services. The annual Ability Works Awards honor one outstanding candidate from each of the agency’s six districts, coinciding with National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Their stories below are linked to their names here:
- Nathan Rohrbaugh, Martinsburg District
- Todd Parrish, Charleston District
- Devin Wanner, Clarksburg District
- Sara Harvey, Wheeling District
- Tiffany Fields, Beckley District
- Deeidra Beckett, Huntington District
Quiet and reserved, Nathan Rohrbaugh is as strong and unbreakable as a rock, which ironically, is what he chose as his life’s work.
Rohrbaugh grew up on a small farm in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle. He spent his time as a child outdoors on the farm, collecting rocks and exploring the wilderness.
He attended Keyser High School, graduating in 2002. As a high school student, Rohrbaugh was toying with the idea of joining the military, but the September 11 terrorist attacks finalized his decision.
Rohrbaugh enlisted in the U.S. Army right out of high school. He started out in Fort Benning, Georgia, where he did his initial training. An injury resulted in a transfer to a training unit in southern California until he recovered, and he ultimately worked his way back to Fort Benning.
“I reenlisted so I could deploy, and pretty much my entire time in the military was the beginning of the second part of the war, starting with north Iraq – so most of my time was spent either preparing for combat or actually participating, and that sums up my entire Army career,” explained Rohrbaugh.
Rohrbaugh was stationed a little northeast of Baghdad in 2005 when the true reality of war hit him.
“I was leading a team down an alley on foot one night, and a bomb blew up on us, and my entire team was pretty much wiped out,” said Rohrbaugh. “Luckily no one was killed – but two out of the three of us needed to be medevacked, and I was actually shot after the bomb went off. We all suffered shrapnel wounds. I had shrapnel to my leg and my arm – a bullet through my shoulder.”
Rohrbaugh was hospitalized overseas in a couple of different places before he made it back to the United States. He spent several months going through intensive physical therapy to learn how to walk again and to learn how to use his arm again.
He ultimately made it back to his parent’s house near Keyser, where Rohrbaugh had to begin adjusting to the changes relating to his new injuries and to being a civilian again.
Rohrbaugh certainly did not let his new injuries stop him from having a life. He enrolled in Potomac State College of West Virginia University, where he completed an associate degree in geology in about a year and a half.
This was just the beginning of his educational career. A college advisor told Rohrbaugh about the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), and he chose to see what the agency might be able to do for him.
Rohrbaugh started classes at Marshall University in the fall of 2008. He received college assistance from both DRS and the Veterans’ Administration.
He became actively involved in the geology program at Marshall, where he was introduced to a lot of new aspects and learning opportunities.
Rohrbaugh did a field camp experience through the University of Missouri, where he got to put his theoretical experience to work doing hands-on field research. An internship in Tennessee allowed Rohrbaugh the opportunity to be involved in research on ancient meteorite impacts.
Unfortunately, a brewing revolution in Egypt disrupted his plans of going there and studying iron formations. Rohrbaugh did all of the background research and all of the follow-up with the professor involved, but issues with his travel visa prevented him from making the trip.
Rohrbaugh earned his Bachelor of Science in geology from Marshall in the fall of 2011 and he had every intention of entering the workforce. However, he found that he was competing for jobs with people who had higher degrees, and Rohrbaugh knew that he could not adequately compete in the field. He knew he had to pursue his master’s degree.
His first choice was the Colorado School of Mines, but a more viable financial plan was available through Missouri University of Science and Technology. After making an exploratory trip and meeting with his future advisor, Rohrbaugh knew the school was the right choice for him.
He actively began working on research projects for his professors, while teaching undergraduate classes at the school, as well as doing research for his own master’s thesis.
Rohrbaugh was pursuing a master’s in geological engineering. His bachelor’s degree in geology gave him the credentials he needed to be a professional geologist but, without a bachelor’s degree in geological engineering, he would not be able to get his professional engineering license, which was his ultimate goal. So he started taking undergraduate classes to get the bachelor’s degree he was lacking.
Ironically, Rohrbaugh earned his master’s degree in geological engineering in 2015 before completing his bachelor’s degree in the same field.
During the 2014 summer break, Rohrbaugh successfully applied for and obtained a student trainee position with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in St. Louis. The six-month job turned into a year-long position and ultimately ended up being a full-time position for him.
Rohrbaugh works as a geological engineer, and the best part of his job is that he is not completely sure what he will be doing on a day-to-day basis. He can spend two weeks in New Mexico doing fieldwork and then be back in the office in Missouri for the next two weeks.
Bridgette Kady, Rohrbaugh’s Rehabilitation Counselor, credits him with knowing what he wants and knowing how to get there. According to Kady, he is self-motivated with strong leadership skills and great integrity.
Rohrbaugh admits that his injuries changed everything in his life, but now he strives to make the most out of every day. His biggest challenge so far has been adjusting to civilian life, but he credits his military discipline for giving him his “inner push” and for keeping him from giving up when things are difficult for him. He is very happy with his personal life, having just gotten married this summer. Professionally, Rohrbaugh knows he has the credentials to eventually work his way back east, where he might make the mountains his home once again someday.
Rohrbaugh is very proud of his service to his country, but is very humble about being a war hero.
“Serving my country has been one of the most cherished moments,” said Rohrbaugh. “I rest on that – though I don’t advertise it. It’s something that I can look in the mirror at the end of the day and feel that I’m satisfied with myself, because I volunteered to do it. I’m proud of that, but it’s not something that I brag about.”
Todd Parrish, Charleston District
Todd Parrish started working when he was 15, and a strong work ethic drove him to succeed and advance during his career.
He’s proud of the fact that he’s always had a job and that he has continually secured better jobs as his life progressed. Parrish has worked at jobs that include a small manufacturing company in Ravenswood and at UPS, where he worked as a part-time loader and delivery person, and ultimately as a supervisor.
Parrish was born in Ripley, where he has lived most of his life. He graduated from Ripley High School in 1985. He put himself through school at Marshall University, graduating with a business management associate degree in 1992 and completed a Regents Bachelor of Arts in 2005. He also served his country in the U.S. Army Reserve.
In 1999, Parrish began working at Toyota Manufacturing of West Virginia, starting as a conveyance team member. As a result of his hard work, he was promoted to a team leader and then eventually moved into a group leader role.
As Production Group Leader, Parrish was responsible for leading 35 team members and managing daily conveyance activities for the manufacturing plant. According to John Adkins, Assistant Manager of Conveyance and Parrish’s supervisor, conveyance involves moving parts inside the plant. Toyota Manufacturing of West Virginia is a powertrain plant that makes four-cylinder engines, six-cylinder engines and six-speed transmissions.
“Basically, what we are responsible for when the trucks deliver the parts is, we unload the trucks, deliver parts to the assembly lines,” said Adkins. “They assemble the engines or transmissions, then we also ship out the finished products.”
Parrish’s other responsibilities included safety, quality, cost, production, environmental and human development. He also coached team members for improved performance, monitored staffing and conducted manpower planning and provided team member training as needed.
In 2013, a major medical incident changed Parrish’s life forever. He had a cavernous malformation in his spinal cord, which resulted in quadriplegia. The incident left him paralyzed from his mid-chest down to his legs. According to Parrish, he has full use of his arms and his right hand, and limited use of his left hand.
The life-altering disability left Parrish unable to work for approximately two years. “The disability changed everything for me and for my family,” said Parrish. “There was a lot of uncertainty in the two-year period, [not] knowing if I would be able to come back to work or what I would be able to do.” But Parrish used his family as motivation. He had always been able to provide for them and he had never quit anything in his life. And he wasn’t going to quit now.
A coworker told Parrish about the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), where he sought assistance to help him regain his independence and ultimately go back to work at Toyota Manufacturing.
Working with Rehabilitation Counselor Betty Parsons, DRS provided home, vehicle and worksite evaluations to determine services that would be beneficial to help Parrish prepare for his work day, commute to and from work and complete his daily work tasks safely and efficiently.
For Parrish, his biggest challenge was getting his self-confidence back – believing that he could still do things. “I still do many of the same things as I did before,” explained Parrish. “It just takes me longer.”
With DRS assistance, Parrish’s vehicle was modified to accommodate his disability and he learned to drive using hand controls, allowing him the freedom to get to and from work. According to Adkins, the accommodations required for Parrish to return to work were minor – putting automatic openers on some internal doors and purchasing a new desk to accommodate his wheelchair was all they had to do.
Throughout his life, Parrish has had a lot of support and encouragement. His father taught him the importance of a strong work ethic. His wife encouraged him to seek employment at Toyota and stood behind him during his health crisis and the uncertainty that came along with the new disability. His friends motivated him to better himself.
He’s especially grateful for the support from DRS and Toyota’s Human Resources Specialist Amanda Johnson, who worked tirelessly to help him return to work.
Parsons and Adkins both describe Parrish as a positive role model, promoting teamwork.
For Parrish, the most rewarding part of his job is seeing the people that he leads succeed at work.
Professionally, he wants to continue working and performing at his current level. “The past year since I’ve been back, it’s been the best year both statistically within the goals I’ve set for myself and that the company has set for us,” said Parrish. “And also from a psychological standpoint – it’s very rewarding to be able to do this again.”
Personally, Parrish wants to maintain his health, continue to provide for his family and find new ways to enjoy some of his old habits.
Devin Wanner, Clarksburg District
One thing you can say about Devin Wanner is that he has always been determined to work. And that determination has led to his successful 24-year career with the U.S. Forest Service.
Wanner was born with a condition called arthrogryposis.
“Basically what that means is that none of my joints fully formed, so I have limited flexion and rotation in all my major joints,” explained Wanner. “Basically elbow, knees, hips and pretty much the whole gambit. So how that affects me is really anything that a person without a disability can reach or bend, I have very limited motion in those areas. So growing up, it limited what my options were and what a person can do.”
Wanner grew up on a dairy farm in northern Pennsylvania and attended school in a little town called Elkland, graduating from Elkland Area High School in 1985. From there, he went on to college at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania for about two years, where he developed an interest in environmental sciences and decided that he wanted to major in wildlife biology.
Wanner had always been interested in the outdoors, so he transferred to Colorado State University to pursue a degree in the field and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in 1991.
Due to the significant nature of his disability, Wanner first sought services through the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program when he was in high school in Pennsylvania, where he received help transitioning to college. He has continued to seek work-related services through the vocational rehabilitation program as he’s moved from state to state, again receiving college assistance in Colorado and then help with finding a job after graduation.
He secured his first U.S. Forest Service position with Prescott National Forest in Arizona. A vocational rehabilitation counselor helped Wanner locate and apply for appropriate vacancies. After he was hired in Arizona, they also helped coordinate an evaluation to make sure the office was accessible for him.
Wanner worked there for 12 years and then transitioned to his current position as a public affairs specialist in Morgantown with the Northeastern Area, State and Private Forestry, which is another division of the U.S. Forest Service. His job responsibilities include providing all the public affairs and communications needs for the six Mid-Atlantic states and the District of Columbia, which comprise the Northeastern Region of the Forest Service.
Wanner moved to Morgantown in 2004 and was doing well at his job. “At that particular time, I was able to walk on crutches,” Wanner said, “but after a few more years, I started having a few extra health issues and needed to transition from using crutches to using the wheelchair more.”
It was then that he connected with the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) to help him with some job-retention services. While Wanner’s primary job responsibilities involve working on a computer, where he writes press releases and does media research, he is also required to do some field work, and he needed a wheelchair that would enable him to perform those job requirements.
According to Chuck Reger, Wanner’s supervisor, the U.S. Forest Service and DRS worked closely to evaluate Wanner’s job requirements and capabilities in order to ensure the most appropriate wheelchair was purchased for him to do his job effectively.
DRS also helped Wanner with vehicle modifications to accommodate his new wheelchair in order to enable him to continue getting to and from work independently. Reger refers to Wanner as a game changer, proving his capabilities and not letting his disability stop him from doing what he needs to do.
“He’s been living with this his entire life, so he knows what it takes for him to be able to do what he needs to do. We certainly have never let that disability limit him in what we ask him to do or what we need him to do,” said Reger. “There is a great future in the Forest Service or the federal government for Devin as long as he wants there to be. We’ve talked about the ideas of promotion opportunities and those types of things, and those certainly exist for him. So, it’s a matter of what Devin chooses to do, and I think that whatever he chooses to do he will be successful.”
Wanner likes the variety of work in his day-to-day job and he believes that his curiosity helps him to do better at his job.
“Also, I like the fact that this is a position that allows me to give back to the American people,” Wanner explained, “as far as being able to be doing my part to manage the natural resources so that we all have a place to go and be able to get clean air and water and just have a place to go and recreate and enjoy ourselves and renew our spirits.”
Wanner believes his major accomplishment has been completing high school and college and being successful at his job despite the low expectations people often had for him because of his disability. He is grateful to his family for always being supportive. And he also credits a nurse, a teacher and a guidance counselor for their encouragement, and for recognizing his capabilities and for pushing him to work toward his goals.
Wanner credits his faith in God for getting him through the difficult times. He also believes his own stubbornness and stick-to-it attitude have helped him to meet his goals. And he is grateful that the vocational rehabilitation program has always been there to support him in getting his education, going to work and now in maintaining his employment.
Presently, his primary goal for the future is a personal one. He has driven his truck through the contiguous 48 states, but his goal is to “take a road trip to Alaska and some of the Canadian provinces. Those are the only parts of North America that I haven’t covered yet.”
Sara Harvey, Wheeling District
Sara Harvey is a pleasant, determined and hard-working young woman. She’s also a tremendous advocate for people with disabilities – just by being her.
Harvey grew up in Wheeling, where she was very active and involved in sports like gymnastics, cheerleading, basketball and soccer. Her mother was a nurse, and Harvey knew that she wanted to get involved in the medical field, where she could help people.
This goal was further cemented after a spinal cord stroke left her paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 12. The frequent hospitalizations and doctors’ visits after her injury only strengthened her desire to work in the medical field as she got older.
Harvey’s injury occurred at a difficult time. She was just entering the seventh grade – a time fraught with change and adjustment.
“At first, it was hard to get used to,” explained Sara, “but, being in middle school, you are already going through so many changes. So you are adapting to plenty of things all at once. So it was just another obstacle for me.” She was pleasantly surprised when her classmates really didn’t treat her any differently than they had before her disability.
While attending Bishop Donahue High School, Harvey reached out to the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) after a vocational rehabilitation counselor presented to her senior class. Working with DRS, Harvey chose to attend West Liberty University, where she ultimately enrolled in and was accepted to the school’s dental hygiene program.
After graduating in 2010, DRS provided Harvey with college assistance. They not only helped accommodate her vehicle with hand controls, but they taught her to drive using those controls. While attending West Liberty, Harvey applied for and was selected as the 2011 Ms. Wheelchair USA. Her platform was disability awareness on the college campus.
“I was having a few accessibility issues,” said Harvey. “I really wanted that to be something I could speak out about – not only on my campus, but other campuses, and make a difference for those in wheelchairs or [with] any disability, to be able to attend college and show them that you can go out and get a degree.” As a freshman in college, Harvey also applied to get a service dog. She spent two years on a waiting list but finally got her black lab companion, Noll, as a senior. He’s been helping her ever since.
“He does a lot for me,” Harvey explained. “He can pick up things that I drop, he can pull me in my wheelchair, which is very helpful, using his vest. It has a harness on it so you can hold on to it so he can pull you. He can turn on and off light switches, which I really don’t use too much, but he knows how. He can open and close doors and things like that.”
After graduating from West Liberty in 2014, Harvey started her job search with DRS assistance. Her vocational rehabilitation counselor, Kyong Milette, and a DRS employment specialist helped her through that long process.
It took Harvey eight months to find a permanent job close to home. During that time, she did temporary work for some dental offices.
According to Milette, Harvey is not a quitter. “She hit some road bumps in finding employment, but she kept her chin up and kept moving. And with the team effort, with myself and David Valentine, our employment specialist, we were her cheerleaders to keep moving forward and Sara took it and ran with it and worked with our agency to continue.”
Harvey ultimately landed a job at Amos Dental in Washington, Pennsylvania, which is a 35-minute commute from her home in Wheeling.
According to Dr. William Amos, DDS, Harvey is now a tremendous asset to his office.
“Interestingly, the first day I met Sara, she came into the room, and I didn’t see the wheelchair,” he explained. “Her presence was amazing. She’s a unique individual. She’s full of joy and life, and she really has a huge presence about her. I hired her immediately – on the spot. I told her, ‘you can start Monday.’” Harvey works as a dental hygienist for Dr. Amos. Working from her wheelchair, Harvey performs the same work as any other hygienist.
“A day in the life of a hygienist,” Harvey explained. “You are responsible for setting up your room, making sure you have all your instruments ready, everything ready for your prophylaxis that you are going to be doing for your patients, x-ray equipment. You are also responsible for sterilization and cleaning up after your patients are finished and setting up for your next ones.”
Accommodations for Harvey to do her job have been minimal. DRS purchased a cordless hand piece for Harvey to use when she was in school. The tool is what a dental hygienist uses to perform a prophylaxis polishing, and she continues to use that device at her current job. Dr. Amos purchased two micro switches to help Harvey control the water scaler, a teeth cleansing device, with her hands instead of with a foot pedal. This accommodation cost him $20.
Patients have reacted to her differently. Some are curious about her disability and the wheelchair. Others have been doubtful about her capabilities. She uses these opportunities to try and increase awareness about her disability and her skills. Dr. Amos believes her unique people skills help to put people at ease.
Harvey is most proud of obtaining her college degree. She credits her mom and her sister with being her two strongest advocates.
Recently married, Harvey is happy to be a home body with her husband, two cats and Noll. She toys with the idea of pursuing a master’s degree in dental hygiene in the future. For now, she’s happy where she is.
“I would say being able to help people is what draws me into this job, and I think that that is the best thing,” Harvey said. “I really like being able to improve the health of somebody and being able to have a really good rapport with my patients.”
Tiffany Fields, Beckley District
Tiffany Fields is no stranger to adversity. But, through hard work and thoughtful decision-making processes, she faces her challenges with a unique strength of character.
Fields, who grew up in Richwood, did not have a typical childhood. She was sick most of the time and was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of nine. As a child, she secluded herself. She never felt well and wanted to sleep most of the time. She didn’t play with other children, and she didn’t make a lot of friends.
During the hospitalization when Fields was diagnosed, she could not be discharged until her father learned how to give her insulin shots. The nurses at the hospital helped him through his trepidation by letting him practice the injections on them.
Despite her illness, Fields did well in school. She was a straight-A student, earning a super scholar award every year except for her freshman year when she transferred to a school in North Carolina. She regrets not receiving a plaque for that year.
Growing up, Fields wanted to be a teacher, and her most supportive teachers expected that of her. But a real-life situation impacted her in a way that made her change her mind.
“It was when I took care of my grandpa, when he was sick with cancer, that I decided I was ready to be a nurse,” she explained. “I realized that I had some compassion for giving him care and that’s whenever I decided I was going to change my major and become a nurse.”
In school, Fields had her doubts about college. No one in her family had been to college, and she was unsure about how to go about applying and submitting financial aid forms and scholarship applications.
While attending Richwood High School, Fields was approached by a vocational rehabilitation counselor from the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), who explained that she had options when it came to her future and her education.
According to Crystal Lively, DRS’ Summersville Branch Office Manager, Fields “… was referred through a transition survey that we provide to all of our high school students, and she self-identified [her disability] through that survey.”
Her vocational rehabilitation counselor helped to guide her through the college application process and got her a disability-related accommodation for her to take the ACT test that helped her improve her scores.
Fields graduated from Richwood High in 2007. She went on to New River Community and Technical College in Summersville, where she took her prerequisite classes before transferring to Bluefield State College. She did not want to live on campus, so Fields commuted to attend her classes at Bluefield’s Beckley Campus.
DRS provided college financial assistance and helped Fields with some of her transportation expenses.
Her biggest challenge in getting her education was her diabetes. Fields was always tired and would sometimes stop and nap during the near two-hour commute to and from her classes. Fields worked as a dietary aid at Nicholas County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center during her senior year of high school and through her second year of nursing school.
Fields earned her associate degree in nursing. As a medical-surgical nurse, she was hired by a nursing home in Beckley. After that, she wanted to expand upon her experience, so Fields got a job in the intensive care unit at Summersville Regional Medical Center, where she worked for six months. Her next employment venture led Fields back to the place where she had started. She applied for a position at the Nicholas County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and was hired as the assistant director of nursing.
The next transition in her career was not planned but was caused by a natural disaster.
Fields went to work on the morning of June 23, 2016, just like any other day. The day turned out to be anything but typical. Rising waters forced the evacuation of 95 patients from the nursing facility. Due to the outstanding teamwork of the staff, everyone made it through the harrowing experience safely.
“We started putting the arm bands on everyone, get them two changes of clothes, get their medicines, get their charts, everything was on paper, get all the drawers moved up onto the bed, get people separated – the hospital people from the people who would be evacuated to the church,” Fields recounted.
“All that happened so fast. We got everyone out before three in the afternoon. I’m not sure how long it took us to do everything. We loaded them on the school buses and on to our company van and took them to the church, and we had carried some people out by hand when the water was already up to our bellies. No one went under water.”
It was after 11 p.m., when the National Guard was able to evacuate some of the patients from the church to the hospital.
“I had just been there for three months,” Fields explained, “and I was soaking up my day shift job and really enjoying sleeping at night and my blood sugar was starting to get better and all of that was taken away and we had to give away all our residents to other people. It was sad. So now everybody is displaced, even employees.”
Currently, Fields is working as a registered nurse at Summersville Regional Medical Center, where she is back on night shifts.
According to Belinda Stear, Administrator of Nicholas County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Fields is a hard worker, and she was responsible for supervising the nurses that were taking care of the residents and ensuring that the residents were getting the care they needed.
Stear did indicate that the nursing facility plans to rebuild. Fields really enjoys her work. She finds it rewarding be able to teach patients how to better handle their healthcare. The most difficult part of the job for Fields is losing a patient. “Maybe they didn’t get help in time or something could have been prevented earlier in the picture – before they got to the hospital,” said Fields. “Losing somebody is always the worst thing.”
Fields continues to focus on her future. She would like to have a family soon. She’s considering adoption because of her ongoing health condition.
Professionally, Fields is looking at pursuing a bachelor’s degree and maybe a master’s on down the road.
Lively credits Fields with being one of those rare individuals who can face adversity and overcome it by working hard and staying focused.
Deeidra Beckett, Huntington District
Deeidra Beckett jokingly refers to herself as the comeback kid. But her story is not a joking matter.
Beckett was born in Philadelphia but moved to Bluefield, West Virginia as a child. From there, she ended up in Dunbar, where she was involved in cheerleading, track and church choir. She graduated from Dunbar High School in 1988 and went on to Marshall University at age 18 with an outstanding black student scholarship.
Her college experience was fun at first. But Beckett had developed a substance abuse problem at age 17, and her first real dose of freedom only intensified her problems. “I was here in Huntington by myself, and I think it escalated my addiction because I didn’t have any discipline, so I didn’t do well,” explained Beckett.
She ended up moving back home to Dunbar and later went to West Virginia State College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
Beckett bounced from job to job because of her struggles with addiction. “I wasn’t able to complete or use my education because of my substance abuse,” she explained. “I would always fall off and have to restart and restart, so I moved a lot. It was just really an unstable life.”
Ultimately Beckett found her way back to recovery, and she is holding strong. She went through treatment at Prestera Services in Huntington. From there, she was referred to the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) when she was ready to begin seeking employment.
According to DRS Rehabilitation Counselor Judy Patton, Beckett was interested in finding a job that was interesting and that she had the ability to perform. Working with DRS employment specialists, Beckett was placed in an on-the-job training program at Recovery Point of West Virginia, which is a family of programs offering hope and the tools of recovery to those who suffer from substance use disorders.
Matt Boggs, Executive Director of Recovery Point, explained that Beckett started as a recovery coach but as she learned more about Recovery Point at Her Place, a particular program providing recovery assistance to women, she was ultimately promoted to program manager.
Her responsibilities not only include working with clients but also supervising a small staff, overseeing the day-to-day operations of Her Place, grant writing, administrative duties and management responsibilities.
Boggs believes Beckett is an incredible asset. “We believe that people who are in recovery are uniquely qualified to help individuals enter and sustain their personal recovery,” said Boggs.
“She’s an upstanding member in our local recovering community and a strong advocate for women in recovery, which is very important when your target population is women and families,” explained Boggs. “I think it’s important to have a strong female, who’s not only well admired in the recovering community but also well respected. It’s very important to give that element of hope to other women who are not only seeking recovery but also sustaining their own personal recovery.”
According to Beckett, finding her way back to recovery is the most important thing she’s done in her life. Without that, none of her accomplishments would’ve been possible. “Graduating, having an education, my daughter. I have one child, and she is everything to me, and when you have a substance abuse problem, you can’t be a parent,” explained Beckett. “A lot of people miss that opportunity, but I didn’t miss it. I can still be a parent even though she’s 21. She’s still my baby, and that is something that I’m so grateful to be a part of her life.”
Beckett has never had a job that has been so rewarding. She’s using her personal story of addiction, hope and success to encourage other women during their struggles.
“Because I’ve struggled with addiction and I can directly relate to the women that come in, there’s a connection there immediately,” explained Beckett.
“To watch them go through – to come in and to have hope with them – and they get jobs, and they get their kids back, and their lives get better – to be a part of that and to know that maybe I was the one that sparked something in them cause I can show them they can get better, because it’s not just saying you can get better, I’ve seen other people do it – and I tell them my story and they see where I’m at – that’s a completely different thing than I’ve ever experienced.”
Beckett is grateful for the support and encouragement she has received. The services she received through Prestera and DRS started her on her journey. Her mother and two aunts never gave up on her and always pushed her to better herself.
She’s proud of her accomplishments, and she’s proud that she has goals set for the future. Beckett was recently accepted into Marshall University’s social work master’s degree program. Going back to school after 16 years, she plans to work hard to earn her degree and get her social worker license.
She’s also proud of her family life. She was recently married to a husband who is very supportive. But, her daughter means everything to her.
“My daughter is 21, and I have a home now, and she can come and stay with me,” Beckett beams. “She has her own room, even though she’s an adult, and I can provide for her not only financially. When she needs things, I can get those for her, but emotionally I’m there for her. I can answer the phone calls. She’s had struggles in her life, but I’m able to be the mom and be the strong one and be there for her.”