By all accounts Maggie Hutson is one of the kindest people you’ll ever meet, and one of the hardest working too. For a little more than two years now, she has been employed at Edible Arrangements in Timonium, Maryland, and loving every minute of it.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a sweet, delicious arrangement from Edible, then it’s possible you can appreciate the work that goes into preparing the freshly cut, often chocolate dipped fruit bouquets of cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, pineapple, grapes and more. For Maggie, the work has given her an opportunity to show off her many job skills, develop new ones, and shine among people who appreciate her hard work, enthusiasm, goodwill and cheer.
“Every time I stop at Edible Arrangements to do a check-in, they have nothing but good things to say about Maggie. They love her there,” said Heather Laser, a Penn-Mar Employment Support Coordinator, who, as part of Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment program, provides ongoing mentoring and support to employees and their employers.
It was somewhat of a coincidence that the manager who hired Maggie happened to have been a former Penn-Mar Senior Residential Assistant (SRA), who was well aware of the nonprofit’s mission, and jumped at the opportunity of taking Maggie under her wing.
“A job coach approached our store and asked us if we would be interested in helping create a job for Maggie,” said Emily Dandy. “I was definitely into it, and talked with Maggie about it, and told her it was going to be an easy process.”
Emily is aware that not a lot of workplaces are into hiring people with disabilities. “They won’t spare the time, or they think it’s a bad idea,” she said. “You’ll learn more from Maggie than anyone else. We’re grateful for the work she does here and for her eagerness to do the best work she can. She’s just amazing.”
Maggie typically works four days a week at Edible, and starts her day consulting her check list. In addition to the fruit arrangements, Edible also sells smoothies, and one of Maggie’s first tasks is figuring out what they’ll need in the fruit bar for smoothies that day. Among her tasks is cutting fruit, a lot of fruit, setting up the bases and containers and decorating them with kale for the fruit arrangements, assembling delivery boxes, as well as doing dishes and some housekeeping.
“My favorite job is dipping strawberries in chocolate,” laughed Maggie, who added that she’s worked different jobs over the years, busing in restaurants, food prep, working with kids, and every Friday for the past three years working at a Wendy’s. “I like being busy.”
Given all her work experience and skills, Emily is looking into adding new tasks for Maggie, one of which is making smoothies. “It would be helpful having an extra pair of hands on board, as demand for smoothies starts picking up in the summer,” said Emily.
Although she said she needs to run it by corporate, Emily, who is in the process of moving to a new Edible Arrangements location in Hanover, Pennsylvania, which will bring her closer to home, has had the idea of bringing Edible to Penn-Mar, conducting a “crash course” assembling arrangements with individuals in the Day Program.
“The gift every Penn-Mar individual gives is having the best outlook in life,” said Emily. “Maggie has that outlook and has taught everyone in the store patience and kindness. It’s a life lesson you’ll never expect to learn until you have someone like Maggie working alongside you.”