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Hope's Community Employment Service Celebrates 25 Years

What began 25 years ago as an innovative program to help integrate individuals with intellectual disABILITIES into the area's workforce has become a highly successful venture that many area businesses count on to find dedicated, hardworking employees.

The Community Employment Services program at Hope Enterprises marks a quarter century of matching individuals who have intellectual disABILITIES and want to work with job opportunities that allow them to work alongside job coaches who help them succeed. In what Hope Enterprises' assistant director of employment services, Tanya Weber, calls a "two-for-one deal," local employers pay the minimum-wage salaries of the individuals they employ, while also reaping the benefit of the job coach, who is paid by Hope and provides supervision and assistance to help ensure that each worker learns and masters required job skills and tasks.

"Twenty-five years ago, we had to go back many times to re-establish Hope Enterprises with employers," said Weber, who has worked with the program since its start. "Bringing individuals with special needs into the community, we really had to sell the program and explain what we were doing. But those relationships have changed. The perception of our service within the business community has changed. Now, when we approach an employer and ask if they would like to hire our workers – they already know that our individuals are reliable and dependable. They know our individuals want to be there and want to work."

Workers in the program perform such job duties as food prep for restaurants; stocking shelves, unloading groceries and returning shopping carts and baskets for customers at supermarkets; washing and detailing vehicles at automotive dealerships; performing custodial tasks; and working in the dish room or cleaning dining tables at a local college. Employers participating in the program may be eligible for a federal work-opportunity tax credit.

According to Weber, employers take notice of the positive attitude and work ethic that Hope's individuals bring to their roles.

"When Olive Garden was brand new to Lycoming County, they hired one of our workers. It didn't matter if it snowed, rained or even if she had transportation or not," said Weber. "She got herself there. She never missed a shift. She would say, ‘They need me.'"

According to Weber, individuals might remain in the program for five to 15 years before they no longer need the assistance of a job coach and are able to perform job duties all on their own. Sometimes they do so well they even gain promotions while they're still in the program.

After graduating from the program's supported employment, some individuals remain with their original employers for many years, even retiring from those positions. Weber said these kinds of consistent, positive experiences have led to long-term, positive relationships between the program and area employers.

"We started out with Wendy's in Montoursville 25 years ago, and they still work with us," she said.  "When you talk about our standing history with the community and its employers, they've embraced us."

Other currently participating businesses include Lycoming College, Weis Markets, Blaise Alexander Family Dealerships, Murray Motors, Olive Garden, and Villa Restaurant.

Weber credits the program's success to its staff and the team approach job coaches take in working with the individuals they support.

"It's the rapport that staff members have with the individuals, and how we communicate with the community, and the training we provide," she said. "There's no ‘I' in team, and the individual responds to that. They know that the coaches are resources for them. It helps them learn the job a little better and a little quicker, and it reduces stress."

Throughout the program's history, Hope's job coaches have supported an average of 60 individuals per year.

Hope's Community Employment Services program is open to individuals age 18 and older who have intellectual disABILITIES. The program accepts referrals from the Lycoming-Clinton Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities Program Office and the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.  The program provides one-on-one work-skills assessments, job-search support, job placement, on-the-job training, job coaching and follow-up services.

Hope Enterprises Elects New Chairman

Jerry L. Wertz has been elected chair of the Hope Enterprises board for a two-year term, effective July 1. A member of the Hope board since 2011, Wertz most recently served as vice chair.

Hope's board provides policy and strategic direction to advance Hope's mission, which is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disABILITIES by providing them with caring supports and responsive programs and services. Wertz succeeds Lauren C. Bryson, who will serve a one-year term as the board's past chair.

"We are pleased to have Jerry serving in this lead role as we move forward," said Robert Labatch, Hope's president. "His knowledge of Hope and depth of experience in the business and civic communities have positioned him well to help us advance our mission."

Wertz is president and chief executive officer of Data Papers Inc. in Muncy.  He previously served as general manager of New Columbia Joist and administrative manager of Schott Pharmaceutical Glass.

Wertz also serves on the board of the Lycoming Economic Development Foundation and the Susquehanna Health Foundation. He also is past chairman of the Manufacturing & Business Association of Pa.

Wertz holds a bachelor of science degree in business from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Barb, reside in Upper Fairfield Township, Montoursville. They have one grown child, Leslie Zechman; a son-in-law, Derreck Zechman; and grandson, Cohen Zechman, all of Turbotville.

Hope Enterprises Announces New Board Chair and Officers

At its June 29 meeting, the board of directors of Hope Enterprises Inc. elected a new chairman and slate of officers to two-year terms, effective July 1. The board also welcomed two new members and recognized outgoing members for their service to the organization.

Jerry L. Wertz, a member of the Hope board since 2011, was elected chair. Wertz, who is president and chief executive officer of Data Papers Inc. in Muncy, most recently served as vice chair. A resident of Watsontown, Wertz also serves on the board of the Lycoming Economic Development Foundation and the Susquehanna Health Foundation. Wertz succeeds outgoing Hope chair Lauren C. Bryson, who will serve a one-year term as past chair.

"I am honored to continue to serve Hope in this expanded capacity as it provides critical programs and services that benefit individuals with intellectual disABILITIES and their families as well as others in our broader community," said Wertz. "I look forward to continuing to work with the dedicated members of Hope's board and president Rob Labatch to advance Hope's mission in our region."

Labatch, who has been with Hope since 2014 and was named president in December 2016, thanked Bryson for her accomplishments as board chair.

"We are grateful to Lauren for her passion for and dedication to Hope and the individuals we serve and for having led us through this season of change," said Labatch. "We look forward to her continued presence on the board."

In addition to Bryson and Labatch, other board officers include: James K. Shillenn, vice chairman; Michael P. Barclay, treasurer; and George Johnson, secretary.

New to the 22-member volunteer board are Williamsport resident Ken Healy, executive vice president of PMF Industries; and Robert I. Herzenberg of South Williamsport, who recently retired from Axiom Automotive. Both will serve on the board's industrial advisory committee.

"We're excited to welcome Ken and Bob to the Hope board," said Wertz. "Each brings a wealth of experience from our region's business community that will be invaluable to us moving forward."

Outgoing board members, whose terms expired June 30, include Kathryn Brown-Wehr of Montoursville and Barb Natell, formerly of Williamsport.

Hope's board provides policy and strategic direction to advance Hope's mission, which is to enhance the lives of people with intellectual disABILITIES by providing them with caring supports and responsive programs and services.

Hope Enterprises Honored with Governor’s Achievement Award for Workforce Development

Hope Honored with Governor's Achievement Award for Workforce Development

Hope Enterprises received a 2017 Employer Honor Roll Award during the 33rd Annual Employment, Training and Education Conference in May 2017.  Pictured are, left to right: Susie Snelick, North Central Workforce Development Board; Erica Mulberger, Central Pennsylvania Workforce Development Corporation; Mark Thompson, Hope Enterprises; Stephanie Shover, Hope Enterprises; David Christman, PA CareerLink(R) Lycoming County/CSO; and Meghan Bowes, PA CareerLink(R) Lycoming County/CSO.

Hope Enterprises Inc., a leading northcentral PA social services agency, received a 2017 Employer Honor Roll Award from the state’s Department of Human Services at the 33rd Annual Employment, Training and Education Conference held May 10-12, 2017, at Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA.

Jointly sponsored by the Pennsylvania Workforce Development Association and the state’s departments of Aging, Labor & Industry, Human Services, and Education, the Governor’s Achievement Awards recognize exceptional employers and training providers that promote outstanding hiring and workforce development practices. Hope Enterprises was nominated by the PA Workforce and Development Corporation for Hope’s commitment to the EARN and CareerLink programs that have provided job opportunities for numerous workers.

"Hope is a pillar in our community, and we provide meaningful employment to many people," said Stephanie Shover, recruitment specialist at Hope Enterprises. "We have partnered with EARN and CareerLink to help participants improve their employability. It’s rewarding to know that these skills materialize when participants find employment and are successful in their careers. Everyone has a success story, and programs like these play an important part in that."

Since January 2016, 14 people have been hired through the local CareerLink office’s employment and training program, and 10 of those 14 people are still working for Hope Enterprises.

"This recognition is a result of much hard work and dedication on Stephanie’s part," said Robert Labatch, president of Hope Enterprises. "She has spearheaded numerous job fairs, presentations, and seminars in an effort to assist people not only in their job searches but in their overall employability, which includes improving networking techniques and interview skills."

Shover says the agency’s success can be attributed to supportive coworkers and commitment to the organizational mission. "We have many proud Hope staff who go above and beyond every day to make a difference in a person’s life," she said. "I am passionate about our agency, and I think the work we do is absolutely amazing."

Hope Enterprises Recognized as a Top Organization by Regional Business Publication

Top 100 Organizations 2017 

Hope Enterprises has been included in Pennsylvania Business Central’s "Top 100 Organizations of 2016." The publication’s annual compilation honors leading companies and institutions from its 23-county coverage area that demonstrate consistent growth, commitment to honest business practices, and community giving. Pennsylvania Business Central’s Editor Spencer Myers, in elaborating on the criteria for inclusion, said: “Simply put, the company or organization must be an asset to the community.”

“It is a true honor to be included in Pennsylvania Business Central’s 'Top 100' list,” said Robert Labatch, president of Hope Enterprises. “Each day, our dedicated staff of more than 550 works tirelessly to help the individuals we serve. This external recognition is a real point of pride and validation of the awesome work that Hope team members do.”

Other recognized organizations located in Hope’s service area include Geisinger Health System, The Hartman Agency, Larson Design Group, The Liberty Group, UPMC Susquehanna, and the Williamsport Lycoming Chamber of Commerce.

Pennsylvania Business Central, headquartered in State College, has served the central Pennsylvania business community since 1989. The publication releases annual "Top 100 Organizations" and "Top 100 People" compilations. It has a readership of more than 33,000 per issue.