Barbara’s Story: Redefining Her Life After Age 60

March 18th, 2015
Barbara Bailey, as part of her job with Advantage Sales & Marketing, hands out samples of food she prepared to Kroger customers.

[Detroit — March 18, 2015]   “For the first time in my life, I have peace of mind and I’m happy,” says Barbara Bailey, who is now 61 years old.

Barbara has been working for the past two years – the first steady job she has ever held. She is also studying to earn her GED.

“I’m proof that it’s never too late to learn and change your life, if you really want to, despite all that you’ve been through,” Barbara says with a smile.

Barbara has been receiving mental health services with Southwest Solutions for more than 25 years. She has a psychiatric diagnosis and had led a drug-addicted life that began when she was 15, which is when she dropped out of school. Barbara’s drug habit caused her to steal, resulting in a criminal record, and commit other acts for which she has finally been able to forgive herself. Barbara has been clean for the last 11 years.

“When I first came for counseling, I was broken down and did not know how to stop using,” Barbara says. “Even after I felt repaired, I didn’t think I could work. I thought I was too old, I had no skills, and my past would hold me back.”

The Supported Employment team at Southwest Solutions encouraged Barbara to apply for jobs to further her recovery and her growing sense of self-efficacy and independence. When Barbara decided she was ready, employment specialist Manuel Partida helped Barbara search for jobs, fill out applications and prepare for interviews.

Even after numerous rejections and eight months of trying, Barbara remained determined. Finally, she landed a job with Advantage Sales & Marketing. Her job involves going to a Kroger in Dearborn, preparing recipes from store items, offering shoppers free samples, and interesting them in buying the items and trying the recipe at home.

Barbara has proven to be very successful in her marketing role. She easily interacts with customers. She has a gentle and helpful manner that attracts people to her portable station set up in the middle of the busy store.

“Barbara is a pleasure to have on our team,” says Joyce Moore, District Manager of Advantage Sales & Marketing, who supervises more than 250 employees in Michigan. “She is professional, kind, honest, responsible and reliable. And she is able to complete her work on her own.”
To realize her career ambitions, Barbara knows she needs her high school equivalency. She has been attending Southwest Solutions’ Adult Learning Lab two days a week to prepare for her GED. At the Lab, Barbara works with staff and volunteer tutors to improve her math, English and social studies skills.

“After I complete my GED, I want to become a Peer Support Specialist so I can help people who are recovering from mental illness and addiction,” Barbara says. “I understand their struggles and I hope I can inspire them with my own story of recovery.”

To get to the Adult Learning Lab in southwest Detroit and also her job in Dearborn, Barbara had to endure bus trips to and from her home on the west side that were two to three hours long each way. These trips were especially difficult on harsh winter days.

Last December, Barbara began using a new taxi transportation programavailable through the City of Detroit to help low-income Detroiters trying to better their lives through work and educational opportunities. She pays $1.50 each way. The Supported Employment team connected Barbara with the service. “It has been a godsend,” Barbara says.

Southwest Solutions’ Supported Employment program is part of the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) initiative implemented by the Detroit Wayne County Mental Health Authority (DWMHA). IPS integrates supported employment services with comprehensive mental health treatment and evidence-based practices.

DWMHA establishes job placement goals for the agencies participating in the IPS model. The Southwest Solutions’ goal is set at 35 job placements annually. The agency has exceeded that goal every year since 2011, and is well on its way to do so again this year, according to Barbara Gray, who supervises the agency program.

Among the companies working with Southwest Solutions to hire individuals in Supported Employment are:


If your company would like to participate in the Supported Employment program, please write Barbara Gray.

Southwest Solutions operates two Adult Learning Labs in southwest Detroit. If you would like to volunteer to help individuals working toward their GED, please write Tim McGorey.

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