James' Journey Comes Full-Circle
“I’m only here because of Tim,” were the first words spoken by James "Patch" Ackland, as he walked into Easterseals Oregon’s Albany Homeless Veteran’s Reintegration Program (HVRP) office. At the time, Tim King was the newest employment specialist for the program, and Patch was his very first enrollment. A Veteran himself, Tim had also previously been an HVRP participant at the time that he was hired, and he utilized this when speaking with Patch over the phone to convince him to come in and enroll with the program. Unfortunately, within days of enrolling Patch in HVRP, Tim passed away following a tragic motor vehicle accident.
Background, Barriers, and Set-Backs
Though he had been hoping to work with Tim, Patch indicated that he was willing to still give Easterseals Oregon a shot. As he continued to work with the program manager, Patch began to share more of his story. Patch is a US Navy Veteran who had served for five years as an engineman/firefighter, traveling through all of the world’s oceans and visiting over 40 countries during his time enlisted. Once discharged, Patch utilized the skills he learned in the Navy to work initially as an HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) service tech for over 20 years, before moving to a position as a production manager on a fishing boat in Alaska. Patch noted that he never struggled to become employed; however, he experienced several setbacks that had significant impact on his life, including a vehicular accident that severely injured his foot and resulted in the need for pins, a fall off of a train trestle that broke both his back and pelvis, and a severe house fire that he notes “burned all of my belongings in 10 minutes… I recovered, but didn’t want to store everything and didn’t collect anything for quite a while after that.”
Without a home of his own, Patch was able to get by while moving between friends’ homes, until he had a run-in with law enforcement. Following this, he resided within a temporary shared housing situation. In 2020, Patch was working for a hardware store, in a temp-to-hire position; and because of his great work ethic and quality of work, he was the recipient of a customer service award. They even offered to make him a full-time, permanent employee. Unfortunately, due to the company’s hiring policies, when a background check was run to officially hire Patch, he was unable to pass the background check, and his employment offer was rescinded, leaving him unemployed.
Patch's Introduction to Our Program
Without a job or permanent housing, Patch attempted to contact the local WorkSource Oregon office to seek employment services, and he reported that he was initially unable to get through. After calling another number, he recalls being ready to complain about their service when they referred him to Easterseals Oregon HVRP. Though he states he initially did not intend to reach out (due to confusing Easterseals Oregon with a separate Veteran-based organization), he eventually called and connected with Employment Specialist Tim, who (as previously noted) was able to persuade him to meet in our office.
A Change of Course
At first, Patch stated that he was interested in returning to the HVAC field; and he declined job leads for some other local positions, stating that he was okay for a little while and wanted to make sure that he found the “right” position. A few months after Patch had enrolled in HVRP, a full-time position became available in Easterseals Oregon’s Salem HVRP office. Remembering the assessments that had been completed with Patch during his enrollment process, in which he detailed his love for officiating wrestling and talked about how he enjoyed working with people, his employment specialist reached out to see if he may be interested in applying to work within HVRP as a staff member. In the same direct manner that he utilized when he first entered our HVRP offices, Patch brought up his background and asked questions regarding the suitability of the job. After obtaining more information from the program manager, Patch decided to apply; and after two rounds of interviews, he was offered the position as an employment specialist!
1 Year Later
At the time of this article, it has been over a year since we first met Patch, and it’s been exactly a year since he began working as an Easterseals Oregon employee. During that time, Patch has been able to purchase a new truck and take vacations with his daughter and grandchildren. He spends his weekends fishing, and he participates in an abundance of volunteer work in the community, assisting individuals in recovery. Additionally, we are happy to say that he was recently approved for a home loan and is in the process of buying his own house!
Testimonies to Patch's Impact
Though Patch credits his success to the entirety of the Salem/Albany HVRP team, noting, “I get to help people and work with a great group of people. Any success I have is because of the great team I work with,” his coworkers are more than happy to credit him for his fantastic work. When asked to describe Patch, they noted the following: “He’s caring. That’s not even the right word for it. He goes above and beyond for everyone, whether they’re a client or not,” “He has a wonderful sense of humor and infectious enthusiasm,” “His outreach is phenomenal,” “He’s dynamic, and I love working with him. For the first time in a very long time, I enjoy coming to work,” and, “He’s a great collaborator.” Additionally, Patch’s outreach partners have noted, “Patch is heroic, and I’m so impressed by him,” “He’s not easily persuaded by client demeanor, and he is compassionate with everyone,” “Patch is the best,” and “We really like working with Patch.”
Our entire team at the Easterseals Oregon Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program consider ourselves lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and work with Patch, and we look forward to working with him in the years to come!
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