The Value of Work


1981, Mark working on an electrical meter

What value do you place on work? Some spend their lives trying to get out of it. I have learned it is worth more than the wage earned.  On Sunday I shared the difficulty Mark and I had adjusting to the realization that his twelve year successful career as an electrician had abruptly ended with a car accident that rendered him wheelchair dependent in 1991. He went through Vocational Rehab testing and they helped him get a job at Discover Card. However, that ended eight years later when they closed down the department he worked in.

We were introduced to community based adult work and activity centers, also known as work/activity day programs. This service generally cost between $40 and $100 a day depending on one’s geographic location. It was the first time I’d heard of paying a daily fee to make money and it seem especially senseless when that daily fee far exceeded the jobs income. It took years for me to understand the reason for the fee, partly because I didn’t believe the level of help Mark needed was worth $40 – $100. It was also tough to accept that a successful master electrician now needed help to do a simple job. Most individuals in this kind of program haven’t had previous work experience and need continued encouragement to stay focused on the work task given and constant reminders of how to do the job correctly. It was mentally and emotionally challenging for me to see Mark in this kind of setting, yet his physical limitations made it necessary. Mark was anxious and willing to do whatever he could to get out of the house and go to work.

How could we pay for such a service? Many participants receive funding through state and local agencies. Although the funding available varies in each state, most offer Medicaid waivers for individuals with specific needs. Mark didn’t qualify for Medicaid and was put on a long waiting list with the State of Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) for a Brain Injury Waiver.

work day centerWhile on the waiting list I negotiated with a work/activity center which allowed Mark to work there. I promised that if they had his work set out for him, he’d need little supervision and no encouragement to get the task done. He is very self-motivated, but would need help getting into the bathroom and lunch. He worked there for years while on the DSPD waiting list cleaning used VHS tapes and DVDs and packaging them for resale. That job ended when the movie rental stores became obsolete due to Netflix and other like programs to see a movie at home.

After fifteen years on the waiting list, Mark received a TBI waiver and started work at Ability and Choice Services (ACS). They are also a community based work/activity center. He has done contract assembly work for the past six years putting drip system sprinkler kits together, scrapbook kits, assembling packaging boxes, filling them and preparing them for shipping. They have also had jobs assembling conference bags and processing returned products. Currently they have been assembling installation kits for Zaggs Invisible Shield Protector.

Mark enjoys the staff at ACS and the environment there. Since I drive Mark to and from work everyday I’ve realize how hard the staff works at making sure their clients are in a safe and clean environment. They tend to many individual needs who’s abilities widely vary. Most the clients seem happy to be there and the atmosphere is warm and caring. I appreciate the staff’s ability and knowledge in how to handle difficult situations including seizures, which Mark has occasionally due to his TBI. Unfortunately, the contract work with Zaggs is coming to an end without another contract on the horizon. In fact the State’s system of operation for work/activity day programs is changing and Mark’s work possibilities are in question once again. We won’t lose hope and know from experience that when one door closes another one opens.

Sometimes work is fun and sometimes it isn’t, but it’s always good for us. It keeps us strong physically, emotionally and mentally. It gives purpose to life. It builds self-esteem, respect, confidence and gives us something to be proud of.  It teaches us teamwork and how to get along with others. It gets our creative juices flowing as we iron out the kinks
that come along. I’ve come to understand the value of work far exceeds the wage earned.

adult work center


What value do you place on work?