Delbert Schramm

From Homeless and Hungry to Working and Happy

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Delbert Schramm was eight or nine when his dad stuck a screwdriver in the boy's ear. That's what Delbert remembers. He was helping his drunk and abusive father with a car repair in the driveway and, as little boys do, he was messing around in the gravel.

"Somehow a small pebble fell in my ear," he remembers. "Instead of taking me to the doctor, my dad tried to dig it out with a very small screwdriver. He dug too deep."

The damage to Delbert's ear drum was permanent, and his ability to hear declined over time. It probably didn't help that he listened to very loud music through very large ear phones.

And he drank a lot. He drank too much and too often. He went to work drunk. He hid the booze in his work locker and drank it during the work day. He missed work, sometimes for days at a time. And eventually, inevitably, he lost the job he'd held for 24 years at Fairmont Foods.

When he came to Vocational Rehabilitation Services in Fairmont, in August 2011, he was homeless and hungry; a major depression had set in, along with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had no driver's license and a criminal record. He couldn't hear because he had returned his hearing aids to the company that fired him.

The company hadn't asked him to return the hearing aids; Delbert just felt it was the thing to do, because his employer had bought the hearing aids to help him do the job that he no longer had. Also, Delbert stopped drinking, stopped on his own, without anyone's help; he's been sober for three years.

Once Delbert was in the VR program, good things happened. His counselor, Christine Bauman, introduced him to Anthony Davis, a specialist at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, to work with Delbert in addressing his hearing loss, provide communications assistance, find housing, and address his mental health needs. Delbert obtained Medical Assistance so that he could purchase new hearing aids. Delbert and Christine worked with Roberta Johnson, a VR placement specialist, and the search for a new job gained momentum.

Together they searched the job listings and soon came across a listing for a part-time clothes bundler at the Fairmont Salvation Army. Delbert applied for the job and was quickly hired to work 15 to 20 hours a week, with the very strong likelihood of increasing his hours soon.

"It's an ideal job to help me get my life back in order," Delbert says. "It gives me a chance to help other people, and I'm very happy there. And I have to say that the staff in Fairmont really, really helped me when I needed the help. The services are excellent. For anybody who's down on their luck, they'll do what they can to help. I'd recommend them to anyone."

Delbert Schramm received services at the Fairmont office.