Jolene Sonntag, a native of Griswold, has been hired as Vodec’s Atlantic-area services supervisor.

ATLANTIC – If there’s a need for services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, Vodec will do its best to meet it. So, when Mark Stromer fielded a phone call last fall about the possibility of Vodec offering supported employment services in Iowa’s Cass, Harrison and Shelby counties, he got to work.

Stromer, Vodec’s Western Iowa services operations director, and his team began investigating the potential for expanding services into the Atlantic area. “We had multiple conversations with referral sources to discover the scope of the need and learned it’s substantial,” he said.

The decision to provide services in these counties is an example of Vodec’s strategic planning process at work. “Our plan allows us to focus on sustained capability to respond to requests rather than force ourselves into areas where we’re not needed,” said Vodec CEO Steve Hodapp. This approach has allowed the organization, founded in 1968 in Council Bluffs, to expand into other Iowa and Nebraska areas with diversified services.

Vodec’s Atlantic-area operation will be modeled after the Council Bluffs Supported Employment Program. Ranked first among community rehabilitation providers in the State of Iowa by the Iowa Department of Vocational Rehabilitation in 2018, the program develops employment opportunities that match the skills and interests of Vodec consumers and then coaches them until they are capable and comfortable working independently at their new jobs.

When Jolene Sonntag saw Vodec’s job posting for a services supervisor based in Atlantic, it sparked her interest. A native of Griswold, Iowa, Sonntag has more than 20 years of experience in the human services field. She graduated from Griswold High School and Northwest Missouri State University, where she majored in sociology and criminal justice.

“The thought of being able to do what I love locally was very appealing,” Sonntag said. Her first day on the job was Feb. 24, and her first weeks were spent job shadowing the job coaches in Council Bluffs, sitting in on assessments and spending one-on-one time with Grace Richardson, Vodec’s Council Bluffs supported employment supervisor.

Richardson said it’s been exciting helping set up services in a new area. “My only nervousness initially came from the uncertainty of finding the right person with the right community connections and initiative to make it happen,” she said. “I am confident Jolene has both. Her experience and ability to catch on quickly make her a great asset to individuals wanting to reach their employment goals.”

Sonntag began setting up intake meetings in April and said things are ramping up quickly. She’s currently working with consumers in the area and is also accepting referrals from others interested in Vodec services. “The consumers I’m meeting all have a different story, but they all want to be part of the community and do their best at work,” Sonntag said. “We’re here and ready to help them do that.”

If you are located in Cass, Harrison or Shelby counties in Iowa and are interested in receiving services from Vodec, contact Stromer at mstromer@vodec.org or Vodec Services Development Director Daryn Richardson at drichardson@vodec.org. If you are a business located in Cass, Harrison or Shelby counties and are interested in employing a Vodec consumer, contact Sonntag at jsonntag@vodec.org.

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