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home : features : features February 5, 2016

11/28/2012 10:13:00 AM
YEI! hires first AmeriCorps volunteer
Americorps volunteer Terri Brahm talks to John Webb as he puts labels on gun magazines at Yavapai Exceptional Industries.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg
Americorps volunteer Terri Brahm talks to John Webb as he puts labels on gun magazines at Yavapai Exceptional Industries.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg

Ken Hedler
Special to the Tribune

Terri Brahm said a layoff Aug. 30 proved to be a "godsend" to her because she landed the right position as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer a month later.

Brahm, who formerly co-managed a communications business in Prescott Valley with her husband, Rick, for four and a half years, said she applied Aug. 31 to Yavapai Exceptional Industries. One motivation for doing so is she has known YE1! Executive Director Brad Newman for years.

However, Newman advised her to apply instead to become an AmeriCorps volunteer to be assigned to YEI! She interviewed for the position, underwent two days of orientation and started Oct. 1 on a yearlong assignment as a commercial development specialist.

Brahm, who at 51 is much older than typical AmeriCorps volunteers fresh out of college, is tasked with recruiting businesses to hire YEI!'s developmentally disabled clientele. She is not paid but will receive a $5,500 stipend that may be applied toward college tuition.

She is YEI's first AmeriCorps volunteer since its founding in 1974, Newman said. He said Brahm brings "boundless enthusiasm and knowledge of the economic activity in the area and is a natural advocate for people with disabilities."

Brahm, who has a 28-year-old daughter with Down's syndrome, two other adult children and a granddaughter, could not be more pleased.

"This whole position was just made for me," Brahm said.

She acknowledged the slow economic recovery is making her job challenging.

"I'm sure it is going to be difficult, but I'm an optimist. I'm sure I will find the right fit," Brahm said.

Brahm, who lives in Prescott Country Club, said she approaches employers in the quad-city area who are looking for workers, such as YEI clients, who can perform piecework at YE1!'s two sites in Prescott and one site in Prescott Valley. Newman has said YEI! clients are well suited for piecework because rote tasks do not bore them.

YEI! production technicians are "so focused on what they are doing," Brahm said. "They know that they are making money and contributing to the community."

Brahm said she persuaded Midway Industries, a manufacturer in the Prescott Airpark that makes clutches, to contract with YEI! to stuff envelopes that go with packaging. As many as 15 YEI! clients will work for Midway at YEI!'s Ruger Airpark Industries, down the street from Midway.

Midway agreed to contract for the YEI! clients, but turned YEI! down in the past because its rate was too high, said Suzanne Wilson, part owner and chief financial officer. She said she formerly hired two of her grandchildren to stuff the envelopes with warranty cards and instructions, but the children are unavailable now because they are attending school.

"We can have our employees focus (instead) on the manufacturing part of it," she said.

Midway will need the YEI! clients within a month or so, and they will work a month at a time or every other month, Wilson said.

Brahm said she is trying to place eight YEI! clients at jobsites. She helped to place Savannah King, 20, of Castle Canyon Mesa as a part-time teacher's aide in January or February at the Learning Castle preschool in Prescott Valley.

King, who previously worked for Head Start in Prescott Valley and for a preschool, said she likes "watching the children and playing with them. I'm excited about doing it."

King also will wipe tables, and set up lunches and crafts, Brahm said.

Brahm said she set a goal of bringing in at least one new business a month.

"I'm hoping this turns into a full-time position for me," Brahm said. "I am so passionate about making people happy, and (YEI! clients) are so unconditionally loving."

For more information, call Brahm at 830-2167.

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