Matthew Wolk’s job at Brick Bodies is “working out” very well, and has been since he landed the job of custodian there three-and-half years ago, through Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment (CE) program.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, from noon to 3 p.m., Matthew, 26, walks into Brick Bodies at the Baltimore area health club’s Timonium location, and gets straight to work checking off his to-do list which includes folding towels, wiping down exercise equipment, tables and chairs, and office furniture, and generally keeping the facility spotless.
“This is my first job,” said Matthew, who has Down syndrome. “I like it a lot. The people are nice and I’m making new friends.”
Unless it’s to go on vacation, Matthew has rarely missed a day of work, a testimony to his positive and strong work ethic. “I never hear of any issues whatsoever with his job performance,” said Penn-Mar Employment Support Coordinator Lila Barchey. “Although he might be a little shy with the ladies, he has very strong relationships and a terrific rapport with his co-workers, who love him and always enjoy seeing him when he’s there.”
Early Skill Building
Matthew, a Parkton, Md. native, who comes from a large blended family and lives at home with his mom Amy and stepdad Mike, noted that being independent was one of the things he likes best about having a job, in addition to receiving a pay check.
After graduating from Hereford High School in 2012, Matthew enrolled in the Postsecondary Functional Academic Learning Support program at Towson University, a college-based youth transition program that teaches 21st century real world application skills through a host of educational, social and vocational opportunities on campus and in the community. In the two years he attended, he volunteered in the university’s bookstore, an experience that his mom Amy said helped boost his confidence and sense of self-reliance.
Upon joining Penn-Mar’s Day Program in 2014, Matthew enrolled in the nonprofit’s CE program and went through Exploration & Discovery, a process that helped identify his skills, preferences, and natural talents. Working with the CE team, he got the chance to tap into his potential and explore the things he likes to do and do well. They then worked to match his skills with the needs of an employer that ultimately led to the position with Brick Bodies. The company was open and excited to have Matthew become one of the health club’s teammates.
Lila, who checks in on him once a month, said that he has never needed any additional job coaching. “I always enjoy going in. He’s such a pleasure to work with. Always happy and always working hard,” she said.
On the chance that Brick Bodies Operations Manager Kurt Schneider has some free time, he’ll join Matthew on a task working side-by-side together, which they call their “sidekick time.”
“We do a lot of joking around,” said Kurt. “Matthew is a true pleasure to have around. He’s fun and enthusiastic, and does everything with a smile. It’s been rewarding to have him as part of our team, and beneficial for everyone. Our customers love him too.”
When he’s not busy at work or active in the community through Penn-Mar’s Day Program, Matthew, an avid gamer and sports fan, enjoys spending time with his family, and is very involved with his church, Grace Fellowship in Timonium, which has a disability ministry.
Summing up how she feels about her son working and earning a paycheck, Amy said:
“It’s been wonderful! It’s given him a good sense of accomplishment, fulfillment and independence. He’s very proud of going in and helping people.”