Vocational Options of Hoke County’s Enterprising Participants Appreciate Their Jobs

Vocational Options of Hoke County (VOHC) participants have a convenient location to purchase snacks when the need arises during the day. Attendee James McPhaul maintains a vending machine at VOHC frequented by staff and participants when stomach growls can’t be ignored.

Kathy Cobb, a fellow VOHC attendee, is employed at the Hardee’s in Raeford making sure the dining area is top notch, gaining confidence as she interacts with customers and staff.

Both McPhaul and Cobb take their jobs seriously, enjoying the benefits of employment while actively participating at VOHC, a day program offering services and programs to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

About 15 years ago, McPhaul, 54, began the business, “James Snacks,” with funding as a micro-enterprise through North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services’ vocational rehabilitation program. Not only did the agency supply him with his first vending machine, but he learned valuable information about how to start, operate and maintain a business.

After years of use, the vending machine was beyond repair. Aberdeen Coca-Cola Bottling heard of McPhaul’s need for new equipment and generously offered to replace the original vending machine. The company has also offered no cost repair and maintenance to the vending machine when needed.

To please his VOHC customers, McPhaul finds out what snacks are preferred and makes sure those are in stock. “I buy the products based on what they want,” explained McPhaul who typically stocks popcorn, peanut butter cups, sweet rolls and potato chips. “It makes me feel good having a business that is of service to others.”

McPhaul plans shopping trips to purchase stock about twice a month with Supported Employment Program Manager Daisy Smith. Both Smith and Community Engagement Team Leader Bruce Hurst are witness to the numerous benefits employment offers to those with I/DD.

Smith’s role is to reach out to and collaborate with local businesses willing to offer paid positions to day program participants. She is appreciative of the organizations who extend opportunities to the people we support and they, in turn, are happy to employ our enthusiastic workforce. “Employers appreciate our part-time employees who are flexible,” Smith said.

Hurst sees the positive effects firsthand such as using their talents and skills in their jobs, demonstrating strong work ethics and becoming dedicated employees. “He is a real honest young man who is working toward budgetary goals for his business,” Hurst described McPhaul.

Hurst is also proud of the accomplishments of Cobb, who is also reaping the benefits of being employed. About five years ago, Cobb, 48, was hired at the Hardee’s in Raeford. She began her role initially with the help of a job coach to assist in building her confidence and guide Cobb in accomplishing the tasks assigned to her.

The job coach wasn’t needed for long and today Cobb easily and aptly completes all tasks required in her role. “Whatever the manager would like me to do during my shift, I do it, even delivering food to drive-thru customers,” Cobb said.

Today she works five hours each week with duties that include cleaning the windows, floors, emptying trash and ensuring the dining tables are clean.

Hurst believes Cobb exhibits visible growth in confidence and the ability to advocate and establish goals for herself. Cobb thrives with being given direction and tasks to complete. “I like to work. I like having a job and making my own money. I like to volunteer,” Cobb said. She also enjoys completing art projects at the day program such as making rugs and painting.

Cobb, who has 3-year-old son and currently resides with her mother, is working toward living independently. “Her job has really helped her be independent and speak up for herself,” observed Smith.

Cobb and McPhaul both appreciate and understand how the support of VOHC staff and area employers have helped them reach their job goals. “Our employers like giving the people we support a chance to achieve their goals and I am excited our participants have the opportunity to have their own jobs,” noted Smith.

Photo captions: Top left, James McPhaul makes sure there is enough snacks in the VOHC vending machine which he maintains as his business, “James’ Snacks”; top right, Kathy Cobb, poses near some of her artwork displayed in the VOHC entrance.