To hear Joe Ferranti tell it, the owner of Sons of Sicily Pizza, the day Rita walked through his door for a part-time job was the best day of his life. For the past three years, he has watched her build friendships with his staff and customers alike, adding to the family atmosphere that has made this small but bustling business a treasure in the Shrewsbury, PA community.
Rita has been a resident at a Penn-Mar community home since September 2011. A born “people person,” she expressed an interest in finding a job and with the help of Penn-Mar’s Exploration & Discovery process and the community employment coaching staff was matched with an opportunity at Sons of Sicily Pizza.
“Out of the 100 employees I have hired at Sons of Sicily, no one has ever been as excited as Rita to work here,” remarked Ferranti. This was his first experience hiring an individual with a disability and it has been quite a revelation for him.
“Working with Rita has brightened everyone’s day. She sees her job as a joy, not ‘work,’ and it affects us all. It’s easy to take your job for granted but Rita never does. She is so appreciative to have a paycheck. She never forgets how wonderful it is to have a place to work where she is valued and respected.”
Rita is responsible for a variety of duties when she reports to the job one to two days a week. Given her upbeat personality, she acts as a greeter when customers arrive, helps the counter staff run food orders and ensures that the dining room is in tip-top shape with tables cleared, chairs pushed in and floors swept.
It is apparent to all who frequent the restaurant that Rita and her boss have a very special relationship and have truly enhanced each other’s lives.
Ferranti describes Rita as “committed,” and notes that she holds the distinction of having the best attendance of anyone who has worked for him in the last three years.
Rita is always eager for extra hours and is excited and ready, whatever the task at hand. Recently she received a raise which brought her to tears of joy.
Her Employment Support Coordinator, Heather Laser, is not surprised at the way Rita has seamlessly been accepted into the Sons of Sicily family.
“Rita is very friendly and always seems happy and upbeat. She makes everyone around her feel better about themselves,” said Laser. “I will visit the restaurant monthly to check on her progress and I usually get the same report — everything is great!”
“Even in the busiest times, Rita never seems stressed. She has become friends with many of my customers, maybe even transformed them in some way. When they walked in they used to say ‘hi’ to me first but now Rita is the first person they greet,” said Ferranti with a smile on his face.
Her work ethic and infectious good nature have served Rita well as she has learned to hone her skills and master her duties. “The staff loves her and she always asks about former employees and has a hug ready to give them whenever they stop by the restaurant,” said Ferranti. “Rita is very connected with what she does at Sons of Sicily and everyone here is very supportive of her. She knows that she can count on her co-workers to the fullest.”