From Job Coach to Chief of Staff, Joy Reiss Found Family in KenCrest
Fresh out of college and in need of a job, Joy Reiss found a home in KenCrest and continues to emphasis our mission.
By Sydney Kerelo
23-years-ago, Joy Reiss joined the KenCrest family. Fresh out of college and needing a job, she accepted the position of Job Coach, not knowing KenCrest would become an essential staple in her life.
“My background is in psychology and occupational therapy,” says Reiss. “I started as a job coach and fell in love with KenCrest. I’ve always had the most supportive supervisors. I always feel like KenCrest is about development and growth, not just for the employees but those we serve, and that resonates with me.”
Growing up, Reiss witnessed the wrong side of the human services industry as her family worked for companies that lacked inclusivity. So, when she started at KenCrest, she was pleasantly surprised to find that their mission aligned with her own.
“I know what segregation is and how it affects individuals we serve and the downside of those types of services. It made me see the value of inclusion and the good work KenCrest is doing, and that’s always been my guiding principle,” says Reiss. “It made me realize everybody’s talents—no matter who you are or what you do—matter. And every little thing someone contributes is for the greater good of our community.”
One area of inclusivity Reiss strongly supports was the development of the day programs—now Meaningful Day—before they were closed due to COVID-19. Reiss regularly visited and connected with the people we helped when opening the site.
“I love my job and being able to influence where KenCrest is going. But when I think about memories that make me smile, what comes to mind is the time I worked directly with the people we support,” says Reiss. “I did a lot of work developing the programs for Meaningful Day and working with people to become a part of their community.”
To this day, Reiss still meets with those she met at the day programs for lunch and to chat. They’ve had as much of an impact on her own life as she has on theirs.
While she was still working as a Job Coach in the Meaningful Day program, one person she supported used sign language to communicate. Reiss would sit with him and spend a little time going through books and magazines daily.
“He would point to things and show me the sign for it, and that’s how I learned sign language,” says Reiss. “We would go out to a restaurant together, and he would show me the food item he wanted, and I would be his translator and help him order.”
Reiss remembers about 50 words of ASL to this day and continued her practice when her youngest son was born. When he was little, he had a speech delay and received services from Birth to Five Early Intervention programs. He received home-based services where the therapist would come to Reiss’s home or even her mother-in-law or families’ homes to hold sessions with him.
RELATED: Have You Tried Lula’s Cookies?
“The KenCrest speech therapist realized why he had a speech delay,” says Reiss. “The first thing we did when he got into the program was to give him a way to communicate, which was sign language, and she noticed a few subtle things when he was signing. She told me to get his hearing tested. We did, and we discovered he had some minor hearing loss because he had fluid in his ears.”
Reiss’s son was born with fluid in his ears but never developed ear infections. So, there was no physical sign indicating he had an issue until early intervention.
Now, at eight years old, he is on his fifth set of ear tubes and was recently discharged from speech therapy in the spring.
Unlike many agencies that are just a place of employment, KenCrest has become an extended family for many employees like Joy Reiss.