Vision Impairment Won't Stop a Can-Do Spirit
ADA, Okla. — What do you do when your client has a can-do attitude? Get out of the way, and watch him succeed.
That's exactly what Teresa McDermott, Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired counselor did when she took on Kenneth Poore's case. Poore, a Konawa resident, wanted to work and take care of himself, but he was new to town and couldn't find work.
"I am originally from New York and I couldn't find any work at all," Poore said. "So I called Cecil first." Cecil Corvin was a DRS counselor for 8 years, who passed away in 2007. Corvin introduced Poore and McDermott to each other because Poore lived in her territory.
To look at Poore, you don't notice the disability; he is legally blind from an undeveloped optical nerve and nystagmus, which means involuntary eye movement. With the assistance of glasses, magnifying glasses and computer screen enlargers, Poore can see to read, write and accomplish almost anything he sets his mind to. Once you get to know him, you forget he has a disability.
Growing up on a dairy farm, Poore's grandfather didn't coddle or shelter him. He was expected to be up and in the barn by 5 a.m. every day. "My grandfather always told us we need to learn how stuff is done," Poore said.
Poore's brother also has the same condition — it is hereditary.
"Grandpa said that you guys have a job to do, and we always did it. We were never told we had a disability."
To this day, Poore does not let that disability stop him from being a successful business owner of Ken-Do-It Home Inspections and Handyman, LLC and a responsible community member as a board member of the Boys and Girls Club in Ada. He is also a good friend who renovates a friend's garage on the weekend and a rescuer of bunnies with his wife, Jolene. Most importantly, a dad to a 13-year-old daughter, Kenna Lee.
DRS helped him become a business man with needed assistance, but he became successful through his drive and attitude. He knew he wanted to work in the construction field. It's what he likes and had experience in dating back to age 14.
"Cecil and I were informally talking about Kenny and he mentioned a home inspection course," McDermott said, who is now a programs manager for the agency. "Kenny thought it was something that he would like to do. He called and talked to the school and got the information. He took the initiative.
"We (DRS) paid for the home inspection course and computer software, such as a screen enlargement. The school is in Midwest City, so he had to stay in a hotel for five or six nights. He found one that was close enough to school that he could walk. He didn't ask for assistance with that. He just did it. It was a very independent undertaking. It was very well thought out.
"I really didn't know where it was going to go once he finished the course," McDermott said. "But then he started calling me and saying 'I've got this job here and I'm contracting with this other person on his apartments'.
"The next thing I know, he's working a couple of towns over. It's all because of his attitude.
"He got out and sought out people to work for. He didn't sit at home and wait for them to call him. He made up some business cards and did some flyers, but the success was coming from word-of-mouth and his drive. He got out there and hit the street," McDermott said.
"I've got one employee who works part-time or full-time depending on how much work we have coming in. We do a full line of construction as well as remodels and repair," Poore said. "Right now, I am working on getting my electrical and heating and air license."
It doesn't stop there, Poore also works for the Boys and Girls Club in Ada. "I am on the board of directors at the Boys and Girls Club. I help with the decisions and stuff," Poore said.
"When I am not working other jobs, I volunteer at the club. I like the positive direction this club offers. When I started on the board, we had 20 kids in the program. It has now grown to between 80 and 90 in our after school program. We also started with 125 in our soccer program, and we're over 300 now."
Currently, Poore is donating his time in the remodeling of the Boys and Girls Club and thinking about coaching the soccer team this fall.
McDermott said, "He was a model consumer. He's got a lot of good instincts and intuition. I thought he would bring a lot to the field of rehab, but that's not for him. He'd rather build a desk than sit behind it."
Poore is also active when it comes to disability rights and legislation. He usually attends the annual People with Disabilities Awareness Day hosted by DRS at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City to talk with legislators and let them know about disability issues.
"I want legislators to support people with disabilities and offer them the same program I was able to go through," Poore said.
Don't underestimate Poore, he even managed to serve two years of ROTC in college, but then they gave him a vision test.
The name of his business was aptly chosen. Ken-Do-It sums it up nicely.
For more information about the Department of Rehabilitation Services' vocational rehabilitation employment services, call 800.845.8476. The number is accessible through telecommunications equipment for the deaf.