JCI Empowers People With Disabilities

• In Harnett County for 13 years, the nonprofit now serves more than 120 people.
Daily Record Photo/Shaun Savarese – From left are Harnett County Commissioners Joe Miller, Abe Elmore and Barbara McKoy, JCI Marketing Manager Nancy Bartholomew, JCI Senior Manager Valerie Gilchrist, Fayetteville State University Nurse Sakeshia Hayes, JCI Vice President Patricia Little and Harnett County Commissioners Gordon Springle and Howard Penny. JCI made a presentation on the services it offers and the people who it helps last week in Lillington at a regularly scheduled board meeting.

Of The Record Staff

Established in 1975, JCI (Johnston County Industries) entered into Harnett County in 2004 when it took over the reins of a production facility in Lillington. In 2015, the private, nonprofit transitioned to its current location at 411 E. Jackson Blvd., Erwin, resulting in growth and recognition. JCI says the growth and recognition following the move to Erwin was due to better visibility and easier facility access.

JCI presented a slide show to Harnett County commissioners, detailing what they do and who they are.

“I felt like this would be a good snapshot of who we are and what we’re about,” Senior Manager Valerie Gilchrist said.

Their presentation said JCI is dedicated to empowering people with disabilities or disadvantages to succeed through training and employment and they empower people to succeed by helping them grow and see value in themselves and the value they bring to employers.

“We are thankful that the commissioners allowed us to come and present information on JCI,” Marketing Manager Nancy Bartholomew said last week. “We appreciate their support and look forward to continuing to provide service to individuals in Harnett County.”

The presentation focused on the services offered by the corporation.

Some of the services offered are, community integrated services including school to work, seniors and activities, adult developmental vocational programs and employment transition.

‘I like learning about cultural diversity and learning new languages.’  — Cassandra T. JCI
‘I like learning about cultural diversity and learning new languages.’
— Cassandra T. JCI

Ms. Gilchrist said this program, in conjunction with Sandhills Center, serves 41 individuals.

School to work has been implemented in all Harnett County schools. Senior and activities created work-based enterprise projects, like wreaths and bird houses, that are designed and made by clients and marketed by various means.

Recently, those who take part in the JCI day program made colorful wreaths and birdhouses available for purchase in Erwin. Handmade crafts range in price, from $15 to $25, and they can be custom ordered in any style or color.

“We stay on top of the latest trends,” said Community Integration and Day-Support Services Senior Manager Valerie Gilchrist, “(This) allows us to keep up with what people want and are looking for.”

Lead Day Support Coach Phillip Walker forwarded that sentiment, sharing what he finds most rewarding about his work.

“I get more than I give … each day is different. I enjoy seeing participants excel far beyond what society says they can do,” he said.

Mr. Walker said he looks at participants’ abilities rather than their disabilities saying they just need someone to take the time with them. Individuals who Mr. Walker works with are empowered to get jobs and choose careers. Mr. Walker was inspired to pursue this career after working in a hospital setting.

JCI is also looking to incorporate a garden program, allowing participants to gain gardening skills and allow individuals to use the harvested crops and fresh produce in cooking.

‘We have availability in all of our services at this time. If there is anybody that is interested, they can contact me for information.”
— JCI Senior Manager Valerie Gilchrist

Adult developmental vocational programming integrates individuals with disabilities into a manufacturing work setting while developing social skills and good work habits.

Employment transition provides personal enrichment and life-skills training, job-related support to promote job retention and volunteer work.

Other services include employment training services like employee development services and community employment services.

Some behavioral health services offered are place and support and peer support services. Currently 10 individuals are being served through this program.

“We recently obtained a contract with Sandhills to begin providing peer-support services, which is going to allow us to provide additional support …,” Ms. Gilchrist said.

JCI also offers a transitional internship program and will offer pre-employment transition services starting in January and serving students with disabilities in Harnett County schools starting in grade 10.

“Last year we served 38 school-aged individuals in our transition service programs in conjunction with Harnett County,” Ms Gilchrist said. “This is our school-to-work program, where we are working with a lifeskills group and our transitional internship program, which works with OCS (occupational course of study) students, allows them to go out into the community and participate in internships, which will eventually lead to job placement after graduation.”

JCI expects to enroll 20 people in that program this semester.

The private nonprofit aims to participate in more countywide festivals and local events, increase community awareness and continue growth and community partnerships.

District 2 Commissioner Abe Elmore asked how long the corporation has been in Harnett County. “We started in Harnett County in 2004,” Ms. Gilchrist said.

Before the divestiture of mental health services in the county, Harnett Production Enterprises (HPE) provided similar services in the area.

District 1 Commissioner Barbara McKoy asked how many individuals are currently enrolled with JCI.

“Right now we have about 123 individuals that we are serving through various programs,” Ms. Gilchrist said.

Ms. Gilchrist called the 10-minute presentation “just a snapshot” of their programming. “We literally do so many programs that I could not fit it all into 10 minutes,” she said.

She directed the board to information in their agenda packets about their services, the criteria for participation in the program and the JCI annual report.

“For our career and workforce development service, we work in conjunction with vocational rehabilitation and local employers to provide job opportunities to individuals interested in becoming part of the work force,” Ms. Gilchrist said. “Last year, in this program, we placed 65 individuals in Harnett County alone. We also are currently serving an additional 15 to 20 through longterm- support services and employment programs.”

Ms. Gilchrist said anyone interested in learning more about the services offered at JCI can come to 411 E. Jackson Blvd., Erwin, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. for a tour or information.

— Melody Brown-Peyton contributed

Daily Record Photo/ Melody Brown-Peyton – Sherry Bowman, left, and Kelly Warren showing pride in one of their many handmade wreaths, with beautiful colors. They both enjoy working on arts and crafts projects.




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