We all aspire to find meaningful, fulfilling work, and for those of us who find it, the experience is transformative, providing us with a sense of purpose and pride. Penn-Mar resident and York County native Jedd Poff has found both.
Two years ago this past February, Jedd, who has fragile X syndrome, landed his first job at the Olive Garden in York, Pa., through Penn-Mar’s Competitive Integrated Employment program. Working together with Jedd and the Olive Garden, Penn-Mar Employment Support Manager Emily Malone and staff created a customized position that has been drawing on and drawing out Jedd’s talents and skills. The partnership has been a success, and Jedd has astounded everyone by how much he’s transformed.
“Jedd has excelled at his work and takes great pride in it,” says Emily. “The Olive Garden did an excellent job of molding his initial duties, which included wrapping silverware and some light custodial work. He’s made such quick progress in the past two years that they have added a lot of other tasks that he’s been able to do including food prep and baking their signature bread sticks.”
Emily attributes part of the success of this partnership to how management and staff at the Olive Garden have taken on the role of job coach themselves. “They have learned how to help Jedd, and understand what they need to give him to be successful.”
For Jedd’s mother, Debra Bennett, the successful partnership has been with Penn-Mar, who she says promotes peace for a parent. “As a parent of a disabled child you can’t do it all, and you don’t want to do it all because you want your child to be as independent as possible and to have a normal life. Working with Penn-Mar gives you that peace of mind.”
She marvels over his transformation in the past few years, and notes how his overall demeanor has changed since he started working, both in terms of his manner and appearance.
“Jedd went from not wanting to get a haircut to going every two weeks for a trim,” says Debra. “He has become very meticulous about his grooming. He takes great pride in his appearance, making sure his uniforms are dry cleaned every week. But the main thing is how his level of confidence and sense of purpose has soared.” – Something Penn-Mar Residential Supervisor, Dawn Mitzel, can attest to.
“Jedd’s social skills have really developed,” she says. “He’s so much more confident and socially outgoing, but he’s also developed an understanding of people’s personal space, especially on the job interacting with coworkers.”
Jedd’s social interaction doesn’t stop on the job. He keeps himself busy as a team member of the York County Special Olympics, concentrating on track and field as well as bowling on its All Star team. Recently he was asked to join a local bowling league.
Debra sees Jedd, who turns 35 this May, as successful as anybody because he is functioning at his highest level, as he pushes himself to learn and grow. “It’s a normal thing. I have a son, he has a job, and he’s happy.”