Not unlike Charlie Bucket in Roald Dahl’s classic children’s fantasy novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Penn-Mar resident Mervin Kearse found his “golden ticket” to a job opportunity with Wolfgang Confectioners in York County, Pa. It’s been a sweet job in more ways than one.
Although Mervin, 45, was hired by Wolfgang back in March, due to the COVID-19 shutdown he didn’t officially start until July 6th. Since then, Mervin said it’s been going great. So great that he picked up an extra shift packaging final confections for shipment.
Wolfgang Confectioners was founded in 1921 by Delphi Eli and Mima Mae Wolfgang as The D.E. Wolfgang Candy Company. In the beginning, operations were run out of the Wolfgang family home in York, and today includes a facility at the site of the historic downtown York factory, as well as a state-of-the-art, 135,000 square-foot commercial manufacturing facility in Loganville, where Mervin works three days a week.
The job, which he landed with the support of Penn-Mar Career Counselor Tricia Zeltwanger, through the nonprofit’s Customized Employment Program, has been a major source of pride for Mervin.
“I’ve learned a lot about Mervin, while we’ve been quarantining,” said Direct Support Professional (DSP) Amanda Glenney, a Residential Supervisor, who in March began overseeing Mervin’s home, and who has been with Penn-Mar for 17 years. “He takes pride in everything he does – his job, anything he does around the house, and in his interests in painting and baking. He has a very creative mind and is always focused on whatever he is doing.”
“One of the things I like about Mervin is he knows how to speak up for himself,” said Tricia. “He holds himself accountable and is a self-advocator. It was his desire to add a shift at Wolfgang. He took the initiative and when we approached management, they were totally on board with it.”
Steve Herbert, Wolfgang Plant Manager, said that Mervin has assimilated well into his job and Wolfgang family on the whole.
“It has been a great experience for everyone having him as part of the team,” said Steve. “He’s punctual, well-mannered and well-spoken and gets along great with everybody, and just does a really good job. We’re happy to have him.”
Mervin doesn’t see his job as just a paycheck. Sure he loves the money – who doesn’t love money he said – but it’s the people at Wolfgang and being part of the team and community that really motivates him. “They make my day enjoyable and happy,” Mervin said.
Creating through Corona
These last eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic have been stressful on all of us, and many have found creative and productive ways to make the best of it and stave off the doldrums. For Mervin that has meant turning to painting and baking, the latter of which he is becoming quite famous for within the Penn-Mar family and beyond, with photos of many of his sweet treats being shared on social media.
“When I’m down or not feeling well, I turn to art, or baking, or even yardwork,” said Mervin.
His interest in baking took off when Penn-Mar DSP Cresta Williams taught him icing techniques and how to use fondant. Since then he’s been making a lot of cakes for holidays, birthdays, celebrations; as Amanda said: “You name it, he’s probably tried to bake a cake for it.”
Through Penn-Mar’s Day Program and Community Activity Instructor and DSP Lydia Hurst, Mervin was introduced to acrylic painting a medium that he has favored, and which led him to take classes at Marketview Arts / York College of PA.
“His art skills are out of this world,” said Amanda. “It’s probably one of the reasons why he does so well designing his cakes.”
The golden thread that ties all of Mervin’s passions together – his job, his creative endeavors – is the joy and smiles they bring to people. That’s what makes him happy.
“And working at Wolfgang keeps me moving. It’s joyful to get out and work and be around nice people who lift up the spirit and work as a team,” said Mervin.
There’s nothing sweeter than that.