By Amye Anderson
UCBJ Managing Editor
COOKEVILLE – In its 50 years of serving the Upper Cumberland region, the Cookeville Tennessee Rehabilitation Center (CTRC) has helped thousands of individuals by providing job readiness training and employment opportunities.
There, participants receive valuable training for jobs in manufacturing, retail, food services, janitorial and production-based fields along with self-confidence and critical skills.
“When I observe clients who first begin the Employee Development program, I see individuals who lack the skills, experience, and self-confidence to gain successful employment,” said CTRC Manager Ryan Barnhart. “I never cease to be amazed at how much experience and self-confidence I see in these individuals once they have completed our program and our community can only benefit from what they have to offer.”
For former program participant Lucy Killebrew, the program provided more than just skills training. It provided hope. Following her release from serving 25 years in prison, Killebrew, once a successful business woman, struggled to reconnect with life outside and find employment.
Prior to her sentence, Killebrew did taxes and bookkeeping and even owned a print shop. Her conviction and resulting sentence changed everything in an instant. Following Killebrew’s release from prison, she struggled to re-enter society. When applying for jobs, the focus of most interviews always shifted to her criminal record.
“I just felt so awful,” she recalled.
When she moved to the Cookeville area, a friend suggested Killebrew attend classes at the CTRC as a way for her to socialize and establish a new life.
“They’ve just been so wonderful,” she said of the CTRC staff. “It was such a perfect fit for me.”
While attending classes at the center, Killebrew also received training on the latest computer software. She eventually put that computer training to use and established a home office where she began writing thriller novels loosely based on real-life Tennessee criminal cases, fictionalized of course, and centered around a heroine based on Killebrew herself.
She’s published nine books so far, with a tenth currently in the works. When Killebrew isn’t writing, she stays busy painting a variety of birds and nature scenes; selling canvas wrap prints of the paintings she creates.
“Everything has just fell into place for me,” she said. “It’s all been from vocational rehab.”
Since first opening 50 years ago, the CTRC has helped thousands of individuals find meaningful employment; with 126 currently enrolled in the program and 27 participants finding work in the last 12 months.
One of 17 state-operated rehabilitation facilities, the CTRC primarily serves residents of the UC. Services are provided to individuals with disabilities and include comprehensive vocational evaluation, employee development services, and community employment services.
The center is a part of the Division of Rehabilitation Services at the Tennessee Department of Human Services. For more information, visit www.tn.gov/humanservices.