After experiencing a moderate cognitive disorder, Pat Valentine thought her working days were over. An administrative executive assistant for 40-some years, she was no longer able to do her job and began receiving disability benefits. Pat moved from the state of Washington to Minnesota to be closer to her sister.
“I thought my life was over, that I couldn’t do anything,” Pat remembers. “I was despondent, not being able to work. At 65, I still felt young and capable, but I really couldn’t function in that kind of work environment due to my neurological issues.”
Once she moved, Pat went to Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services for an assessment to see what kind of work she might be well-suited for now. They referred her to Rise where she met Amber Barnes who assisted her with career planning and job placement services.
“I had always dreamed of working in a flower shop, so that’s where Amber and I started,” Pat said. “She came up with so many resources and ideas. I didn’t have any background or training in that field so Rehab Services paid for me attend the Koehler & Dramm Institute of Floristry in Minneapolis.”
Pat took two 40-hour floral design courses in which she learned to create corsages and boutonnieres, wedding and funeral arrangements, and simple bouquets.
With this training complete, she then applied to and was hired by the Hy-Vee grocery store in New Hope which features, among many other specialty departments, a wonderful floral shop.
It was a perfect fit. Pat typically works 4 to 8 p.m., four days a week, but her schedule is flexible. “I let them know to call me if they are short-staffed,” Pat said. “When I wanted to go to Washington over the holidays, my co-workers all helped cover my shifts. It’s a great place to work with really nice people.”
Pat says she has also learned a lot from Hy-Vee’s professional floral designers. She waits on customers, takes care of the flowers, and makes arrangements if the designers aren’t there.
“Once I started working and was doing well, I gained so much self-confidence and was willing to push myself even further. Before, I felt like I had a lot of potential – I just couldn’t access it! Now all of my inabilities and my disability are pushed into the background and don’t make any difference.”
“It is always gratifying to be part of a person’s job search and hiring process,” said Amber. “But it is a special blessing when months later I am able to see how that one success has carried over into other parts of a person’s life.”
With her new professional successes, Pat really wanted to pay forward all the support and good fortune she had received.
In January, Pat’s pastor at Family Baptist Church in North Minneapolis asked her to start a Begin Again program for women who are homeless or in crisis and need help in finding work, a safe place to live, rehabilitation programs, and other services so they could enjoy a more hopeful future. Pat and her church friends are starting the program out slowly. With referrals from Workhouse, they assist women move on a path to more stability and healing.
The mother of two daughters and three granddaughters, Pat said her family is so happy and excited for her new career and the important work she is doing to help others who are struggling.
“I have been truly blessed and now feel like I can do anything. Life is good, life is very good.”
This article appears in the March 2019 issue of the Rise Reporter.