Schippel House Program Manager Claudia Lewis came to Hoyleton just over sixteen years ago and she is just as happy to be here today as the day she started back in 2007. However, many things are different for Claudia now compared to back then.
Claudia learned about Hoyleton from a former Hoyleton employee who told her Hoyleton is a place where you work with kids with behavioral issues. Claudia’s response to this was, “I know how to work with kids like that, I was one of them when I was young!” Claudia decided to drive to Hoyleton to apply for a job, but when she arrived she was so full of doubt and insecurity she drove back home without even getting an application. “My English was broken, I was still learning the language and I realized I wasn’t even sure how to say may I have an application,” Claudia said.
Claudia did not give up on the idea of working with children with behavioral issues. After a few months, when she was feeling more confident with her English she went back to Hoyleton and this time she not only asked for an application she applied for a job.
Claudia was interviewed by longtime Hoyleton employee, Martina Taylor. “During the interview I was able to understand about 70% of what Martina was saying and respond to about 50% correctly, but my written English was about -1%,” Claudia said with a laugh. “Martina didn’t care, she encouraged me. She told me I was right where she was years ago, an immigrant learning a new language and looking for a job. Martina’s words gave me so much confidence.” A few days after the interview Martina offered Claudia a call-in position and after a few weeks she gave her a full-time job.
During the hiring process Claudia was introduced to another longtime Hoyleton staff member, Edie Grote, who Claudia said was so kind, caring and understanding. Claudia says over the years she has worked with the best co-workers and many have become life-long friends.
“I have so many stories from my years at Hoyleton, some sad, some funny and many that left a mark on my heart forever,” Claudia said. “I remember attending my very first all staff meeting and hearing Chris say, “my kids, our kids, God’s kids,” those words are still moving to me knowing I have a job where I take care of God’s kids,” Claudia said.
Schippel House opened in November of 2015 and at that time Claudia was battling cancer and undergoing chemo treatments while working full time at an industrial company called Radiac and continuing to work for Hoyleton as a call-in. Claudia said she “fought like a girl” to beat cancer but due to the effects of chemo she was unsure she would be able to continue with Hoyleton. All that changed in 2016 when Residential Services Manager, Brandon Rudolph, recommended Claudia work one-on-one with an autistic non-verbal client at Schippel House. Brandon and Claudia had worked together previously and he knew Claudia was the right person for the job. The client’s name was John and Claudia bonded with him right away. She believes God gave her a gift of being able to communicate with individuals who have developmental delays. She laughed and said, “a few people started calling me the John Whisperer!”
Claudia became a Staff Lead at Schippel House in November 2017. After a few years in that role Director of Therapeutic Residential Care, Monte Mister, recognized Claudia was not only a good worker but a strong leader. Monte gave her the opportunity to be the Program Manager at Schippel House and she has been the leader of the Schippel Squad ever since.