Robeson County’s Brittany Gabaldon Achieves, Surpasses Employment Goals​

As Brittany Gabaldon celebrates her one-year employment anniversary this month, she looks back at how far she has come. She has secured transportation and maneuvered through mental health issues while maintaining employment.

The future didn’t always seem so bright.

Gabaldon initially began receiving Monarch services through Behavioral Health Therapist Karen Nance at the behavioral health office in Robeson County. Seeing Gabaldon improve throughout the therapy sessions, Nance believed Gabaldon would benefit further from employment mentoring through the Individual Placement and Services (IPS) program.

Gabaldon, 29, was introduced to Employment Peer Mentor (EPM) Len Edwards and he realized she would more likely find a job if she believed in her strengths and talents. “I could see that some of the barriers with lack of employment came from her feeling unmotivated, uninspired and lack of self-esteem,” Edwards said of Gabaldon’s demeanor when they initially met.

The Robeson County IPS team is led by Ann Hanna, IPS team lead and certified employment support professional. Gabaldon also received guidance from Robert Cain, employment support professional (ESP), who assisted in finding a job that fit her needs, interests and skills.

Edwards began by incorporating strategies to help Gabaldon overcome obstacles to employment and promote confidence. “Len gave me a lot of support, helping me to find a routine that would include working,” Gabaldon said of Edwards, who urged her to research and watch motivational speakers on the internet. “Those kinds of things helped me realize that I wasn’t the only one struggling.”

Edwards started referring to Gabaldon, who moved to North Carolina from Michigan, as “Awesome Brittany” to instill a sense of self-worth. “I knew she was awesome. She just needed some navigation,” he said.

The benefits of working with an employment mentor paid off when she interviewed for and accepted a job at City Cleaners in Lumberton. Gabaldon, who works Monday through Friday, first began simply checking in items to be cleaned but now has the responsibility of inspecting the clothes and making sure the pressers are accomplishing tasks.

However, without a driver’s license she would either need to walk or arrange for rides to her new job. The pair discussed more reliable transportation options and decided a scooter would be the best option. Obtaining transportation would not only help Gabaldon travel to and from her job but also become more independent in her everyday life.

They found a TaoTao50 scooter for sale locally and Gabaldon arranged to make $100 payments out of her weekly paychecks. Seeing her determination and motivation to own the scooter, Edwards realized how important Gabaldon’s job and securing transportation was to her.

Edwards secured the last payment through donations from generous donors. As Gabaldon showed up to make what she thought was the second-to-last payment after about two months, Edwards let her know that she officially owned the scooter and could take it home.

“I was shocked, excited and thankful,” Gabaldon said. “I know Len will do whatever he can to get you where you need to be. Having the scooter helps me get to work and reduces the stress from my grandmother and aunt who I live with. I can do errands and get to doctor appointments on my own.”

Gabaldon highly recommends reaching out for support when needed and is glad she did. “Receiving therapy and help from a mentor is nothing to be ashamed about. This was a good experience . . . I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have this kind of support. I have received services from other mental health agencies and by far Monarch has exceeded all of my expectations,” Gabaldon said.

One year later, Edwards can clearly see how being employed and becoming more independent has improved Gabaldon’s everyday life. He believes her newfound attitude and confidence will help her achieve even more goals. “I truly believe more great things are coming down the conveyor belt of life for Brittany as she continues to shine and flourish. This is what dreams are made of and her dreams are taking flight,” he said proudly.

Photo caption: Brittany Gabaldon, right, takes a break from her job at City Cleaners in Lumberton with Employment Peer Mentor Len Edwards.