Billy Albert has never met a stranger. And from the outside his life may seem like yours or mine. He is gainfully employed, sings in the Midway Independent Methodist Church choir, loves Mexican food and going to the movies…and most of all looks forward to spending time with his girlfriend, Veronica. At sixty-five years old, he leads a full and happy life. There is one big difference though…Billy was born with an intellectual disability,
For most of his life, Billy lived in Virginia with his Mom. When his mother passed away he needed to find a new home. He relocated to Columbia to live with his sister, Shirley, and her family. At that time she contacted Babcock Center recognizing her brother might benefit from the residential and vocational programs they offer to individuals with lifelong disabilities.
Thanks to Babcock Center, Billy lives independently in a Northeast Columbia community training home with three other men. While the staff helps to manage the household, each of the residents has responsibilities. Billy takes care of his own room and enjoys doing chores like setting the table, preparing food and vacuuming. Sabrina Jones, one of staff members at the house says, “Billy always volunteers to help. As a matter of fact if he sees that something needs to be done, he just does it.”
Billy attends the Thomas Antley Pitts II Work Activity Center (WAC) on Parklane Road four days each week. While at the Center, Billy does paid contract work, learns independent living and vocational skills and spends time with his friends. It is here where he met his girlfriend, Veronica. Cynthia Samuels, his supervisor at the Center, also had many nice things to say about Billy. “He is an extremely positive individual and so very helpful. Billy is an all around good guy!’
In addition, Billy has a paid job in the community. You may very well have met him if you have ever shopped at the Kroger on Forest Drive. He is a favorite of employees and customers alike. More than 10 years ago the Kroger grocery chain took a chance and offered him a job. Billy has worked there faithfully ever since. His responsibilities include bagging groceries for customers and helping clean the store. Billy dreams of being promoted to the bakery and baking cakes someday. “I really like the hats they wear and I could earn even more money,” he shared with a blush.
The job Billy has at Kroger was secured by one of Babcock Center’s supported employment specialists. These specialists work with local employers to identify positions that suit individuals with disabilities. Once an employee is matched to a job, the specialist works side-by-side with the individual providing him or her with the training necessary to learn their responsibilities and be a great employee. In Billy’s case, the specialist worked with him for several weeks before phasing out.
I invite you to consider hiring one of Babcock Center’s consumers. Not only will your business receive tax incentives for hiring a person with a disability, your work place will be brightened with their positive attitudes and strong work ethics. What they bring is not quantifiable and beyond words…it is something you just can’t pay for.
Babcock Center supports more than 300 adults residentially and 650 vocationally in Richland and Lexington Counties. For more information visit www.babcockcenter.org or call (803) 799-1970.
Photo of Billy Albert provided by the Babcock Center