How a Bad Day Led to a New Career

How a Bad Day Led to a New Career

In honor of Hammer’s 100th anniversary and NER’s 50th anniversary, we have published Legacies, a special anniversary magazine, celebrating our history, the people we have supported, and those who have made our mission possible all these years. Here is one of the featured stories:

Virginia with Bruce from our Jersey home

In 1985, I was working at Dayton’s as a stock person and would work the floor and do sales when needed. I was having a bad day one day when Lisbeth Armstrong walked through. I believe she was Hammer’s Chief Program Officer at the time. We started talking and she told me about Hammer and encouraged me to apply. I accepted a full-time position working in the dorms, on the Afton floor. This was about two years before we began downsizing and moving into group homes.

I opened the Sumac home and was the house coordinator, which turned into a manager position a few years later. Then, I left for three-and-a-half years to do the same work over in Wales. My mother was British and married an American which brought her to Minneapolis. I have friends and family over there. One of which needed help with their autistic foster child. They asked me to come. There wasn’t anything holding me back, so I said yes.

When I came back to the US, I became a support staff at Hammer. Later, I transferred to our Lakeside home and then when Jersey was built, a team was put together of seasoned staff. I was one of them. I have been here ever since, which is about 20 years.

Virginia with Danette, supported by Hammer, at a 1980s Halloween dance

I had a sister with a disability who died when she was one year old. Because of her, my father joined the Board at Hammer for a few years. He was my first introduction to Hammer. What keeps me here are the relationships you develop with co-workers, the people we support, and their families. How I view this job is walking in the door and helping individuals live their lives. We live life with instead of living life for. I like to really get to know the people I’m working with and spot places that they can grow—I want them to grow to their greatest potential. I’ve said many times that I will walk through anything with them. We can learn skills together and they get more confident and become more independent. Families notice a difference and talk about the changes they see.

I have lifelong relationships through Hammer with my colleagues and the people I’ve supported through the years. I’m very thankful!

Virginia Carpenter is a Direct Support Professional at our Jersey home. She first came to Hammer in the 1970s when she did a month-long internship while in high school.


The Legacies magazine is being distributed to all those on our Discoveries mailing list. If you would like to receive a copy of Legacies and/or be added to our Discoveries distribution list, please email barbara.brandt@hammer.org. 

1 Comment

  1. Suzanne Christianson

    Oh my gosh – I never knew this story. I love it! Lisbeth is the best. I can just imagine her out shopping but still thinking about Hammer. What a blessing that Virginia said yes and has been giving her gifts to Hammer for these years.


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