Penn-Mar Maryland Program Manager Michelle Delozier can pinpoint the very day she nominated Eric Williams, a member of Penn-Mar’s Facilities Maintenance team, for the nonprofit’s P.R.I.D.E. Award.
It was a Sunday, and a Maryland resident who had been recently diagnosed with dementia, had managed to climb out his bedroom window. When staff became aware of this, they alerted Michelle, who in turn e-mailed Eric to say that the house needed to have extra security. Although it was a Sunday, Eric was on call, as are all of the maintenance team members, and his response was immediate.
“Eric was at the house in no time and within half-an-hour had alarms installed on all the windows and doors,” said Michelle, who has been with Penn-Mar for 17 years. “Not only did he come to secure the home, but also to help find the resident.”
Michelle can site numerous examples of Eric going above and beyond in his daily work, the hallmark of which is that he not only gets the job done, but does it meaningfully and completely with the individual’s needs in mind.
“He does his work with a big smile of kindness and humility,” said Michelle. “The individuals we work with know Eric is kind. When they approach him he listens and engages with them and with us.”
The maintenance team, made up of five members, oversees Penn-Mar’s three large facilities in Freeland, Md., and Glen Rock and New Freedom, Pa., as well as the 31 residential programs in Maryland and 25 residential programs in Pennsylvania. Eric and his maintenance partner Josh Fincham oversee Penn-Mar’s headquarters’ facility and 24 homes.
“All of our maintenance team members are qualified and no job is too small or too big for them,” said Michelle. “They handle all kinds of maintenance issues – renovations, repairs, installations, plumbing, electrical. They do whatever needs to be done, and maintaining all of our properties is no small feat.”
Although he has only been with Penn-Mar since mid-2014, Eric has been nominated twice for the P.R.I.D.E. Award by colleagues, receiving it both times in the past two years. The quarterly award, which stands for Professionalism, Respect, Integrity, Dedication, and Excellence, is one for which team members nominate each other.
“It really means a lot to you when your peers take the time to recognize a coworker as going above and beyond,” said Eric. “It’s humbling and very rewarding.”
Eric came to Penn-Mar from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resource (DCNR), where he worked for five years. His background, however, is in management, and prior to his work in the State Parks, he was an area manager for Harley Davidson for many years, managing a maintenance department. When the company downsized, he and his staff were let go.
“So I had a heart-to-heart about what I wanted to do,” said Eric, who built his own home in York New Salem, and whose garage and shop are almost as big as the house. “I felt that if I took another management position, it wouldn’t be entirely fulfilling personally. It wasn’t going to provide anything outside of me. So I turned to hands-on maintenance and facilities and have been focusing on that for the last 10 years.”
Despite only having been with Penn-Mar for a fairly short time, the organization’s mission has long been near and dear to Eric’s heart. His wife Michelle worked for Penn-Mar for 18 years, and just recently left to work for York County’s York/Adams MH-IDD Program (Mental Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities). His daughter Britney Lowenthal works in the PA Day Program as a one-on-one, and his sister-in-law DSP Donna Aubel works in the Residential Program.
“Where can you work and serve at the same time? Penn-Mar gives you that opportunity. There are few of those opportunities out there where you can make a living and at the same time be serving a greater good.”
“None of us are going to get rich in this field, but we get to earn what we can and support a community that is very underrepresented,” added Eric.
One of the things that really attracts him about being in maintenance at Penn-Mar is the opportunity to support not only the individuals, but also those who support them in every department.
“Eric is not only a blessing to Penn-Mar but to the individuals we serve,” said Michelle. “His kindness is genuine.”