Job coaching

Breyfogle helps people with disabilities discover independence through working

Photo by Karin Elton Advance Opportunities job coach Deb Breyfogle watches as Suzanne Frisvold sorts cards for a community employer who needed help with her at-home business, Neatlings, a chore card system.

MARSHALL — A couple days a week Deb Breyfogle gets up at 4 a.m. at her home in Cottonwood to get to work by 5 a.m. in Marshall to help employees get to their work in Cottonwood.

Other days Deb Breyfogle stays in Marshall. She works at Advance Opportunities helping people with disabilities with their jobs in the community or in-house work.

Her job has included helping clients pick up trash that has flown around the Lyon County Landfill.

“I used to do that two days a week — with five or six people,” Breyfogle said. “They put the garbage back in garbage bags and get minimum wage for that. It’s fun because you can be outdoors.”

Currently, she goes with clients who work split shifts at Mid Continent Cabinetry in Cottonwood — five go in the morning and seven work in the afternoon. There, she supervises clients, helps them with their work, assists with “bathrooming,” she said, and also makes sure safety precautions are followed.

Vans pick up clients at their homes and deliver them to Advance Opportunities and then they take them to their various jobs in the community.

Some clients work in-house at Advance. They might shred paper in the shred room or do digital imaging (turning records into CDs or tapes) in another room.

In the morning, job coaches help the clients with taking off coats, make sure everyone who is supposed to be there is there and “get crews together to go out to the community,” Breyfogle said. In addition to the Lyon County Landfill and Mid Continent, some clients clean at Kruse Motors, Big Stone and AmericInn and other places in the area.

Advance clients have gotten more work in the community thanks to the efforts of the employment coordinator, Jamie Struck, Breyfogle said.

“She has done an awesome job at getting jobs in the community for people with disabilities,” Breyfogle said.

Struck has admiration as well for what job coaches do.

“Their job entails so much responsibility,” said Struck. “They’re dealing with people’s lives every day. They’re dealing with people’s behaviors, medical issues, mental health — it is just such a wide range — transporting, they are helping them on the job.”

With more than 100 clients, “it can be a challenge to schedule everybody,” Breyfogle said. To figure out who wants to go where, the clients fill out a questionnaire that tells their preference of jobs, “what they like, what they’re comfortable with.”

Not everyone at Advance has jobs; some play cards, games or puzzles. The clients have varying degrees of disabilities. Some are in wheelchairs and some require one-on-one supervision to perform tasks.

The clients live at group facilities and some live on their own.

Breyfogle has worked at Advance for eight years. When you first start, she said, you have to read about your group of clients, about their disability, about their medication, if any, and what their goals are. Job coaches also do a lot of documentation.

“We do weekly summaries on clients,” said Breyfogle. “We write down how their work was done, if they are completing their goals and if there are any issues such as not being back from break on time.”

Breyfogle said she enjoys her job and plans to work at Advance Opportunities until she retires.

“I admire (the clients) for doing what they are doing and for getting themselves ready to work,” she said. “I’ve loved every job I’ve had (with the clients) — even the landfill.”

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