Bill Dockham has been in sheltered workshops on and off for almost 30 years.He went to Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) in February 2012 as his provider, Opportunity Connections, was moving away from sheltered work.
Bill’s job developer, Katie Maple with Opportunity Connections, said Bill was often dissatisfied at the sheltered workshop when there wasn’t enough work.
“Bill wanted to work and he would become very frustrated when there wasn’t work for him to do,” Katie said. “The transition to community employment wasn’t difficult because he wants to work and earn a paycheck.”
Katie attended a rotary club meeting where she met Chuck Hinman, the manager of the Best Western Hood River Inn. Chuck told Katie he was looking for someone with a strong work ethic who could help keep the large property grounds around the hotel clean and safe. Bill had been volunteering at Meals on Wheels and learning other skills to prepare him for a community job. He was hired as a grounds maintenance workers at the Best Western Hood River Inn.
His VR counselor, Andrea Rogers, said Bill’s file with VR closed in October 2013 as a successful placement.
“This was a great fit for Bill as he feels pride in keeping the grounds of one of the premiere hotels in Hood River clean and safe,” she said. “He now has work and community inclusion where he has lived for a long time.”
The job as a grounds maintenance worker at the Best Western is close to his home and allows Bill to make more money and be more independent.
“I like my job,” Bill said. “I really like making money.”
Bill works 20 hours per week at the Best Western Hood River. Bill is responsible for keeping the outside of the hotel grounds clean, including the nearby parking lots of nearby businesses. Chuck Hinman said Bill’s work has become invaluable.
“It’s blatantly obvious to me when Bill hasn’t been here for two days,” Chuck said. “The appearance of our hotel grounds and the surrounding area suffers in his absence.”
Bill, 51, saves his paychecks for vacations. He recently went to Italy with his roommate from his group home, and he also has a trip planned with a group on a cruise to the Caribbean.
Bill’s other passion beyond traveling is following the Portland Trailblazers. He is known by his coworkers at the hotel as the guy who never misses a Blazers game.
“I went with Chuck and we sat in the box,” Bill said, referring to one of the VIP seating areas. “It was amazing.”
Bill has autism and likes to be independent. His job allows him a great deal of flexibility. He stays on the move, cleaning the grounds in and around the hotel, which includes a nearby gas station lot.
“Bill has a genuine appreciation for work and being part of the workplace,” Chuck said. “His jovial personality and enthusiasm for work is something that would be hard to replace.”
Andrea Rogers was Bill’s VR counselor. Ali Postlewait is his service coordinator with Mid-Columbia Center for Living. Katie Maple was his job developer and initial job coach with Opportunity Connections. He now uses natural supports at work.