Shannon Shaffer-Kartesz, her role as an employment specialist has led to not just a fulfilling career, but also volunteer work as well.
Otherwise known as a job coach, referrals come to her company, RSVP [Rehabilitative Services and Vocational Placement] from the Department of Rehabilitative Services through the Virginia state government.
"The referrals are people with physical and/or mental challenges," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "Some of my clients have never done competitive employment.
"The first step with these clients is doing job tryouts, essentially working with different employers doing different jobs, trying whatever the client would like to try within their qualifications and abilities for two or three hours at a time."
The next step and the first step with many of my clients is working closely with them to find, apply for and secure interviews for jobs.
"We work on interview skills, presentation, and every other aspect of getting a job," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "Once my clients begin work, depending on the level of involvement they need, I will be with them 100 percent of the time at first to help them learn the job and give them the necessary tools to be successful and happy in their job.
"My time with them at work then slowly declines to 20 percent, which is considered stable in their employment."
After the clients are stable in their job, Shaffer-Kartesz checks on them once or twice a month to make sure they are doing well with the job.
"The job is rewarding and yet very challenging," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "The economy makes it difficult for many of my clients to find jobs. There are not many jobs out there and the competition for those few jobs is fierce, often leaving my clients behind, which is why my role is so important.
I advocate for my clients and work closely with employers."
Born June 22, 1976 to Ken and Linda Shaffer of Johnsonburg, the current "job coach" said she grew up "on the farm with amazing parents and a very close network of friends and family," people who left a lasting impression on everything Shaffer-Kartesz values and believes in today.
"I know the value of hard work and giving back," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "I know the value of graduating in a small class and knowing I am held accountable by someone for everything that happens because every corner you turn you were running into a relative, or someone who knows Dad or Grandpa Wally or used to go to school with Mom or coached my aunt in basketball or remembered when I was just a baby.
"These hometown, small town things are priceless, and not something you find when you leave 'home.'"
Growing up in Johnsonburg, Shaffer-Kartesz said she remembers her parents as being helpful folks who always helped someone in need, "whether it was adopting a family at Christmas to buy gifts for, delivering Meals on Wheels, fixing things at church, making baked goodies for shut-ins, and I could go on and on and on and on about the countless examples of giving back I grew up with."
These countless examples made a lasting impression as Shaffer-Kartesz chose a college major of sociology.
"It inspired me to go in to social work, first in Elk County doing Child Protective Services and now in Roanoke County, Virginia doing Employment Services," Shaffer-Kartesz said.
A 1994 Johnsonburg Area High School graduate, Shaffer-Kartesz attended the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and graduated in 2001 with a degree in sociology.
Back in high school, Shaffer-Kartesz most remembers Mr. Casciani.
"I actually nominated him for an award through UPB when I was there and he won," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "He had such a zest for learning and teaching, and he actually threw out his class notes each year and started new the following year.
"This kept him and his chemistry fresh and exciting always. Looking back, I realize how much time and effort he put in to making sure each and every one of us had the best education he could give us, and that was great. The lesson and outlook applies to life-- each day is a fresh new day with new notes."
There are many things the job coach misses about the area, most important being her family.
"I also miss the beautiful four seasons as we have not had much snow-- until last winter-- in the eight years that we've lived in Roanoke, and the fall leaves don't seem to be as brilliant, the Clarion River and the Ridgway Triathlon, the history, running in to someone you know wherever you go, and the small town sense of pride," Shaffer-Kartesz said.
Through her husband, Andrew "Butch" Kartesz, the current employment specialist found a deep love for volunteer work. Her husband is a 1991 Kane Area High School graduate and graduated from Penn State University.
"When my husband's job as an optometrist brought us to Roanoke, I spent the first seven years of our time here as a stay-at-home mom," Shaffer-Kartesz said as her daughter Adair is now 15. "I was volunteering, and working for my husband's business doing payroll and bills.
"My volunteer experiences are some of the things I am most proud of."
Shaffer-Kartesz is involved in the Junior League of Roanoke Valley (www.jlrv.org ), an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving communities through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.
"The Junior League of Roanoke Valley is an exclusively educational, charitable organization which reaches out to women of all races, religions, or national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to voluntarism," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "In this organization, I have been on the board for one year and for two years was co-chair of our largest fundraiser, The Stocked Market, a holiday shopping market that raised approximately $180,000 the first year I co-led and over $200,000 the second year, along with numerous other placements during my seven years in the League.
"The money raised by the Stocked Market is granted out to organizations in the community who help women and children."
The money is also backed by the members of the Junior League with their volunteer time.
"The impact we have made on our community is amazing," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "Another volunteer opportunity I cherish is with Saint Francis Service Dogs (http://www.saintfrancisdogs.org/ ).
"We began with this organization when we decided we wanted to do puppy raising. This would mean getting a small puppy that was donated to the organization and passed the test, given even to small puppies, to be admitted to the program. Wally, named in honor of my Grandpa Wally, who had Shaffer's Dairy and loved his animals, was our puppy--a lovable black lab. We worked with him daily at home and weekly in "puppy class" to learn what he needed to, to become a service dog. We would need to do this for about a year and then give him up for more intensive training. Well, we trained him for about five months when he was released from the program because of bad hips. He is now five years old and has been our dog since he was released from training."
The couple still will "puppy-sit" often for the organization.
"Even as I type, 'Mickey' is here with us for two weeks," Shaffer-Kartesz said. "He is another black lab, out of prison. He is being trained by a prisoner in a local prison, as are many dogs in the organization. The dogs trained by prisoners are brought out regularly to be exposed to different things that they otherwise would not be exposed to such as stairs, women, and others.
"Adair, Butch and I also volunteer at the homeless shelter reading bedtime stories to the children. Even with my job coaching position and working part time at my husband's office, I still volunteer as much as I can, along with being my daughter's taxi driver."