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Council honors three for work in vocational rehab

Commissioner Jim Rothrock of the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services today joined Sandra Cook, chairwoman of the State Rehabilitation Council, in announcing the Roy J. Ward Employee Leadership Recognition Awards for outstanding service and contribution to the field of vocational rehabilitation and the disability community.

“It has been a difficult year due to increasing costs and decreasing budgets combined with a slow economy. However, with the aid of these three Ward Award recipients and their colleagues, we continue to realize transformational opportunities for thousands of Virginians with disabilities who wish to work,” said Rothrock. “As we approach our new year with increased support from Gov. McDonnell and our General Assembly, we anticipate increased successes from our rehabilitation staff and consumers.”

The SRC Roy J. Ward Employee Leadership Recognition Award honors DRS vocational rehabilitation staff who distinguish themselves by the quality of service they provide their clients as well as their contributions to advance the employment and independence of people with disabilities. Recipients provide leadership to local, state or national organizations and bring expertise to community or agency-based initiatives that enhance vocational rehabilitation services and develop future leaders in the field.

The award is named after Roy J. Ward, a longtime leader in the disability community, former member of the SRC and former chair of the DRS Board. He passed away in October.

The 2012 Roy J. Ward Employee Leadership Recognition Award winners are:

– John “Jack” Ballurio, lead counselor in Fishersville. For nearly four decades, Ballurio has been on the front lines as a rehabilitation counselor. He has received numerous accolades for helping citizens with disabilities find employment and improve the quality of their lives. In 2001, he was named Counselor of the Year by the Virginia Rehabilitative Counseling Association.

– Robin Sexauer, rehabilitation counselor in the South Hampton Roads Eastern Shore Office. Counselors in this small office must serve many different roles and Sexauer lives up to the challenge. She recently developed a new job placement database for Eastern Shore clients and worked to secure job leads for the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. She also is an active leader in community activities.

– Karen Kahn, program support technician senior in Chesterfield. She is known for her technical savvy and eagerness for professional growth. Kahn established two job clubs – one for youth and one for adults – and has worked in programs with ex-offenders. She also organized for clients a Learner’s Permit Preparation class that has been replicated across the state. She is known for going above and beyond the call of duty, including becoming a notary public so she can help notarize necessary paperwork for clients.

The Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services provides and advocates for the highest quality of services to help persons with disabilities maximize their employment, independence, and full inclusion into society. Through offices across the Commonwealth and partnerships within the private and public sector, DRS assists more than 30,000 consumers annually with services including vocational counseling, career exploration, training, assistive technology and other specialized programs that cater to individual needs.

On July 1, DRS and the Virginia Department for the Aging will merge. The Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services’ scope will include specialized services for older Virginians and their families and caregivers.