State honoree 'passionate' about creating job opportunities

Kara Berlin-Bates removes barriers for inmates as they're released from prison and return to civilian life, as well as assisting disabled individuals seeking employment.

In recognition of her work, she was chosen as Missouri's State Employee of the Month for October. She was picked in September as the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Employee of the Month.

Berlin-Bates, of New London, is in charge of staff and operations as district supervisor at DESE's Vocational Rehabilitation Office in Hannibal. She has served the department for nearly eight years.

The re-entry institutional activities coordinator at Northeast Correctional Center in Bowling Green praised Berlin-Bates in a message sent to a DESE official.

"I received an unsolicited email from the above Department of Corrections employee who wanted to recognize Ms. Berlin-Bates for her outstanding service and positive difference she makes with the inmates there," Timothy Gaines, assistant commissioner in DESE's Office of Adult Learning and Rehabilitation Services, wrote on her nomination form.

The email from the coordinator observed, "Kara is kind and helpful, and has made a difference in my ability to help offenders get pre-release help by doing the applications for benefits and intakes while they are still in prison. She is making an astounding impact on the offenders' lives and giving them hope."

In addition to her supervisory duties, Berlin-Bates also carries a caseload providing employment services to individuals with significant disabilities. She is a member of the Northeast Missouri Workforce Board and has been an active member in multiple interagency teams, including the Vocational Rehabilitation Re-entry Team.

She's described as passionate about creating employment and career opportunities for individuals with disabilities in northeast Missouri, and she was instrumental in creating the first "reverse" job fair in the Hannibal area in 2019. At such an event, job seekers put their talents on display, with employers being the ones who circulate among the potential employees' booths to introduce themselves.

The event in Hannibal was deemed a success with many employers participating and job seekers obtaining employment. Additional reverse job fairs were planned including one in October for Disability Awareness Month.

Her supervisor describes Berlin-Bates as a charismatic, innovative and compassionate leader whose energy and enthusiasm is contagious. She partners with the workforce board and correctional center, as well as local job centers, community rehabilitation programs, employers and high schools in the area.

She is credited with making "a significant impact in removing barriers for individuals with disabilities and creating opportunities for her consumers to obtain training and employment services to advance their careers."