DSB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Tina Shores (from left), area Consumer of the Year Sharese Ross, her supervisor Isaiah Thompson-Hogan, and Lion President John Bernardo of the Fort Smith Noon Lions Club. Ross was been named the area’s outstanding Consumer of the Year by the Department of Human Services Division of Services for the Blind (DSB). Her employer Christ for the World Ministry received an outstanding business partner award.
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Kandy Cayce, DHS Division of Services for the Blind
Manager with Vision Impairment Serves Community, Earns Award
Sharese Ross of Fort Smith has been named the area’s outstanding Consumer of the Year by the Department of Human Services Division of Services for the Blind (DSB).
Ross has supervised substance abuse counselors with Christ for the World Ministry since 2010. She has been very successful working with the local court system and is a Court Appointed Liaison for persons with substance abuse. She advocates that substance abuse is a disease and needs treatment. She also is active in her community and writes grants for social programs that she designs.
DSB Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor Tina Shores nominated Ross for the achievement award because of her determination to overcome adversity and succeed at work.
The award presentation was made June 6, at the noon meeting of the Fort Smith Lions Club held at Golden Corral restaurant. Ross was selected from an area that includes Sebastian, Montgomery, Scott, Logan, Johnson, Yell, Crawford, and Franklin Counties.
Her employer, Christ for the World Ministry, was recognized by DSB as an outstanding business partner for its commitment to promoting the employment of persons with vision impairment.
Ross graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1985. She had minors in accounting and human services. After graduation she worked for large national corporations in the nursing home industry, but at age 40 Ross said she began quickly losing her vision. She was diagnosed with severe glaucoma and myopia (nearsightedness). “I was devastated when I couldn’t work any longer.”
“DSB was a lifesaver. I was so depressed when no one would hire me," Ross said. "Tina encouraged me..
“People who are blind or visually impaired can work," Ross said. "I wish more employers would consider them. We can contribute a lot. We just need to be given the opportunity,”
Expressing her appreciation for DSB services, Ross said the DSB Technology Lab taught her “invaluable computer skills.” Ross manages her daily business schedule, corresponds with co-workers, and utilizes the Internet. Most importantly, she says she is able to write grants for the food bank and other programs offered by her church for the Fort Smith community.
She was instrumental in writing a $20,000 one-time grant from Wal-Mart for a feeding program overseen by her church. She helped manage the day-to-day operations of the program, which ran for nine years. Since transportation was a problem, the program took the food to the children. Field kitchens were set up in low income housing areas, parks, and other places where children would congregate. Breakfast and lunch was provided at no cost to any child who needed a meal.
Ross also wrote a two-year grant, "Access to Recovery." Through this program, Ross was able to help individuals not only with their substance abuse recovery, but also with housing, clothing, and utilities. This program was able to continue for five years. Now Ross is looking for funding to start a program to increase the graduation rate for youth.
“I came from a corporate environment. To see such poverty was truly an awakening,” Ross said, explaining her desire to give back to the community.
She has no family in the area and expressed her gratitude for her pastor and church family’s continued encouragement. Shirley Mason of the church took Ross to frequent medical appointments and surgeries over a nine-year period, including a 14-day trip to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. “She became my second mother,” Ross said. “It wasn’t an easy journey. She kept pushing me.”
In her spare time Ross said she enjoys “exercise, cowboy movies, and married life.” She and her husband William Earl Ross II have two grown children and five grandchildren. She’s a member of Christ for the World Church and is on the board of Our Father’s Heart, a weekly feeding program for adults.
This is the 10th year DSB has given Consumer of the Year awards to recognize individuals who have managed their rehabilitation plans, gained marketable skills, secured good jobs, and become role models for others. An overall state winner will be selected at the end of the year.
DSB provides vocational rehabilitation services to adults who are blind or severely visually impaired and whose goal is successful employment. The division also serves youth and older blind individuals. For information about DSB’s programs and services, visit the DSB website at http://humanservices.arkansas.gov/dsb/Pages/default.aspx or call 1-800-960-9270 , 501-682-5463, or deaf relay 711.