FISHERSVILLE — Wilson Workforce and Rehabilitation Center’s staff is preparing to say goodbye to Director Rick Sizemore.
After 33 years at WWRC, serving as director since 2007, Sizemore will retire at the end of June.
“A long time ago,” said Sizemore of when he came to WWRC in 1986, “but it goes by quickly. I tell folks to enjoy every minute.”
He said that he has accomplished what he hoped to in his more than 30 years in Fishersville.
But a podcast Sizemore started five years ago has acquired an international audience, and he is moving into a producer role with the VR Workforce Studio Podcast.
Sizemore will remain involved with WWRC through the center's foundation.
“The need for that is certainly there,” Sizemore said of the foundation’s work. He said the podcast has been “instrumental to the success of Wilson [Workforce and Rehabilitation Center].”
Through the podcast, Sizemore found a niche of individuals interested in hearing stories about community members who live with a disability, complete rehabilitation and return to work.
“We highlight what we like to call ‘the champions of business,’ and individuals who hire those with disabilities,” Sizemore said of his podcast. Sizemore shares ‘the courageous stories” of individuals who have come back through rehabilitation from an illness or injury.
Before coming to WWRC, Sizemore said he spent his youth working as an announcer for radio and in radio sales. About five years ago, he attended a conference and afterward felt challenged to begin to tell the stories of patients at WWRC.
Sizemore saw the potential of telling stories through podcast.
He said he expected a few hundred people would be interested in the beginning, but thousands of viewers downloaded his first podcasts. He hears from individuals from all over the world who have suffered an illness or injury, but returned to work because of rehabilitation.
Sizemore, who grew up in Carroll County, in southwest Virginia, attended Wilkes Community College and graduated Radford University with degrees in business management, music and radio-television broadcasting.
Besides continuing his work with the podcast, Sizemore is looking forward to “more time with family. That is just the real joy of being able to slow down.”
He lives on a farm in Swoope with his wife, Christa, and daughter, Katelyn, who attends Waynesboro High School. The family tends several gardens and keeps chickens on the farm. Christa works for Waynesboro Public Schools at Wayne Hills Center.
Sizemore’s son, William, lives in Fishersville, daughter, Hannah, lives in Austin and an older son, Derick, is a U.S. Army recruiter in New Hampshire.
Sizemore said that after almost 75 years of service, the WWRC’s future is as rich as its past.
“And I believe the center is well positioned to move into the future, and provide people with disabilities the opportunity to return to work,” Sizemore said.
Services offered at WWRC are a benefit to the Commonwealth of Virginia and individuals with disabilities.
Sizemore will miss “being involved daily with the very talented and commended staff who work [at WWRC].”
He said the WWRC staff work with as many as 350 patients per day.
“One of the most talented and dedicated staffs in Virginia,” he said.
Steve Sweeney, manufacturing technology instructor at WWRC, has been at the center since 1983.
“I believe that he can feel proud about all the things he’s accomplished [at WWRC],” said Sweeney, who previously served as a materials handling instructor and then a food service occupation instructor at WWRC.
Sweeney said that Sizemore is wonderful with clients and staff members, and that Sizemore is “down-to-Earth” and just part of the team.
“He was just a common guy doing an uncommon goal,” Sweeney said.
Sizemore’s talents in radio have been “right on appropriate for publicizing ‘this is what we do’” at WWRC, according to Sweeney.
“It’s been special working with Rick,” Sweeney said.
Jim Hall has been director of the Career and Workforce Development Division at WWRC for three years.
“It’s been absolutely amazing,” said Hall of working with Sizemore the last three years. “His energy and passion for vocational rehabilitation permeates everything he does.”
Through his podcast, presentations and interactions with staff and patients, Hall said that Sizemore’s passion is clear.
Hall said he has learned from Sizemore about public speaking, marketing strong leadership principle and, most importantly, servant leadership.
The latter is about putting others before yourself, such as staff, students and community members.
Hall said he is going to miss Sizemore’s energy, and the mentoring he has provided him in the time they have worked together at WWRC.
“He will be a hard leader to replace, but we wish him the best of luck in the next chapter in his life. There can only be one Rick Sizemore,” Hall said.
For more information about the VR Workforce Studio Podcast, visit vrworkforcestudio.com/blog.