Carolyn Worth makes her way around the kitchen and dining room, charring with clients as they prepare and eat their lunches. Worth, program director for Community Entry Services, listens intently as one man shares his most recent journal entry, eagerly reading aloud his tale of conquering his fears to learn how to swim.
The organization’s mission is to “empower people with disabilities to maximize independence and lead satisfying productive lives in the community,” and it’s obvious Worth embraces that mission wholeheartedly as she talks with each client.
She spots an “I voted” sticker on one client’s shirt and wonders aloud if anyone else needs transportation to the polls. She decides she’ll make sure a van takes everyone who wants to vote to the polling station after lunch.
Worth has worked with Community Entry Services for seven years in a variety of roles, including direct support professional, lead trainer, and vocational coordinator before becoming program director two years ago. Originally from New Orleans, she attended college at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she fell in love with the West. Her sister lived in Jackson, so Worth decided to make the move. After spending some time working an assortment of jobs, she found work she loved with Community Entry Services.
The organization provides a wide array of services to meet the diverse needs of clients. The intensity of services ranges from people who need help 24 hours a day to those who just need occasional assistance with tasks like paying bills. Clients range from local high school students to retired adults. The organization provides job coaching and offers assistance with everything from preparing meals, to using public transportation, to navigating health care. Some clients live in group homes, while others live more independently.
“Services are very individualized,” Worth says. “Everyone is wonderfully unique. We all have different abilities.”
The nonprofit also offers enrichment activities like touring Grand Teton National Park, therapeutic horseback riding, Wii bowling at the library, music class, hiking club, and Special Olympics. One popular activity is to get coffee and read the newspaper together in the morning.
Worth says 95 percent of clients are employed and 5 percent are “happily retired.” Clients work at over 20 local businesses, including Vertical Harvest, hotels, restaurants, and the Animal Adoption Center. Worth and her staff work with each client to help them find meaningful employment they enjoy.
One client always dreamed of working at Big R Ranch and Home and, working with a job coach, they were able to make that dream come true. Another client started a candy company called Sweet Treats, which they sold to another client upon retirement. Staff members assist the small business owner with tasks like ordering inventory and stocking the candy machines.
Worth beams when she talks about her clients and their accomplishments. It’s evident she loves working with clients and staff alike. “Even if you’re having a bad day, someone comes in and brightens your day,” she says.