Wendy Thayer's work history was sporadic and filled with gaps. Over the years she moved from fast food restaurants to factory work to a grocery store. There were other jobs, too, but none lasted long.
That was the pattern until 2008 when Wendy dropped out of the job market and moved in with her parents.
She was a single mom, trying to care for two children. She was receiving help from the Family Life Mental Health Center in Coon Rapids. "I was scared," she said.
Because Wendy needed a job to support herself and her children her therapist referred her to LaNay Koralesky, a VR counselor in the Anoka County office, who connected Wendy to a project called Custom Futures.
The Custom Futures partnership includes Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Family Life Mental Health Center, and Rise, Inc., a community rehabilitation program in Spring Lake Park.
When Wendy suggested that she might like to pursue a nontraditional career for women, LaNay recommended the Newgate Education Center, a Minneapolis nonprofit that uses donated cars to offer free automotive training for low-income adults. Wendy began her training in early 2011. A year later, with top honors for her exceptional performance, she became the first-ever female graduate of Newgate's auto mechanic program.
With financial assistance from VR for tools, uniforms and mileage, Wendy was ready to start looking for work. She received valuable job-search assistance from Lori Clauson, an employment consultant from Rise, and in April 2012 Wendy landed a 32 hour-a-week job as a technician at Rydell Auto Outlet & Garage in Mounds View. In the months since then she has performed well enough to receive a pay raise and full-time hours and has worked her way off public assistance.
The Custom Futures partners at VRS, Rise and the Family Life Mental Health Center continue to provide counseling and guidance.
"My daughter is very proud of me," Wendy said, with a big smile that suggested she's also very proud of herself. She has also earned the respect and loyalty of her manager and co-workers, who all praise Wendy's work and support her plans to advance her career by earning full certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
Wendy Thayer received services from the Anoka County Blaine office.