She says it with flowers

Betty Ann Beckham photo

Cross City, FL Betty Ann Beckham places the last red rose in the bouquet, looks around her newly remodeled flower shop, and smiles. "I am so blessed," she says. "I just can't put into words how much easier and better it's been since they [Vocational Rehabilitation] fixed up the flower shop."

Betty Ann, who's owned Personal Touch Florist for seven years, has severe lower back pain and difficulty sitting or standing all day. The pain became worse over the years, and it began to keep her from doing what she loved best creating beautiful flower arrangements. "I was bending over all the time and having to dig things out of boxes on the floor," she says. She needed to fix the shop, but financially was unable to do it. "I started hurting so badly; there were days when I just had to quit."

Fortunately, Betty Ann learned about Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and met Counselor Kathy Haas. Kathy knew that VR could help Betty Ann maintain employment by making a few adjustments and modifications to her workshop. She arranged for Rehabilitation Engineers Gary Sherman and Patrick Burke to design and install several modifications including shelves to display merchandise, silk flower holders for the wall, cabinets, a rolling table and a three-legged standing stool. They also installed running water inside the building. "Betty Ann only had a water hose outside because the sink wasn't hooked up," says Kathy. "They moved the sink and made it work again."

Betty Ann is thrilled. "Someone else might say that it's not a big deal, but it really is," she says. "Everything they did has helped me in one way or the other, and it's also helped my staff be more efficient. If you make accommodations for people with disabilities, it helps everyone." According to Kathy, businesses often see a benefit for all employees when they make their offices more accessible.

Betty Ann has always had a knack for floral arrangement. "When I worked at Anderson Elementary School, I helped with assemblies and programs by being creative with what we had. When they had little plays, whatever they needed for the play, I made it." About 75 percent of Betty Ann's business is for funerals, and for a time, she thought about getting out of that part of the business. But a friend, who had ordered flowers for her relative's funeral, told Betty Ann that it really meant a lot to have someone create the flower arrangements who knows and cares so much for the family. That changed her mind, and now she knows that she's doing the families a service by giving it her personal touch.

And the personal touch is what Betty Ann does best. Betty Ann puts her love and care into all of her creations and also enjoys writing personal notes on her invoices. She conducts all of her business by hand and doesn't own a computer, preferring to use a folder system.

"I've always been a giver, and that's what I like to do," she says. "I am so thankful for the work that was done for me and that God has blessed me with Crystel and Crystal to help in the shop."

Betty Ann's niece Crystel also speaks highly of her. "She's such a blessing to so many people in her family and in the community, and I think this is just wonderful for her."

Kathy says that Betty Ann is very deserving of VR's services. "No one can express appreciation like she can. She has thanked me over and over. I am so very happy for her."

Betty Ann explains, "I just can't put into words how much this has helped me. Thanks to Kathy and VR, I am able to keep working."

Florida's Vocational Rehabilitation program is committed to helping people with disabilities become part of America's workforce. Our employer-focused website, FLJobConnections.com, allows businesses to search at no charge for employees who are ready to go to work, as well as to post available jobs. VR has 111 offices across Florida, and last year helped 3,874 Floridians with significant disabilities find or keep a job. For more information about VR and its services, call (800) 451-4327 or visit Rehabworks.org.