Posted on June 9, 2022
Though retired York County schoolteacher Maryann Gross has been a major guiding force throughout her granddaughter Gabby’s life, she never ceases to be amazed at how far the recently turned 21-year-old has come and how much she continues to accomplish. Given her early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, Gabby has been beating the odds stacked against her to achieve young adult success and become a thriving member of her community.
One such success will be celebrated on June 17th, when Gabby marks her first full year of gainful employment with Red Lion Controls in York, a tech company founded in 1972 that “delivers industrial automation and networking solutions.”
Her job, in the company’s N-TRON division or cell, as they are called, entails preparing orders for products that include ethernet switches, industrial Wi-Fi radios and communication converters, as well as preassembly work on DIN rails, metal strips or plates that fit onto the backs of ethernet boxes for mounting onto rails. More than the paycheck, Gabby loves the experience of being a part of a team.
“She’s a social butterfly, but gets her work done. They very much depend on her there,” said Margaret Markline, Penn-Mar PA Employment Support Coordinator, who worked with Gabby through the nonprofit’s Customized Employment (CE) program and its Exploration and Discovery process. Gabby entered the program in 2020 upon the recommendation of the York/Adams MH IDD Program.
“What we discovered through the process was that Gabby has a lot of skills and talents,” said Margaret. “Through job development we were able to help secure her position at Red Lion.”
Penn-Mar’s CE program has been very successful in establishing relationships with businesses in Pennsylvania and Maryland, and pairing individuals, their talents and skills, with customized positions that meet an employer’s needs.
“Penn-Mar gave Gabby many opportunities to try different things,” said Maryann, who was concerned about her working at first, having heard stories of people with disabilities who were not treated well at their jobs. “I’m so glad for Gabby that we went through the process. It turned out so wonderfully.”
“Everything has been going amazingly well with Gabby. She does such a fantastic job helping us out,” said Renée Snyder, a Red Lion Manufacturing Supervisor who oversees the N-TRON cell where Gabby works. “She’s so eager to help everyone, and anything you throw at her she picks up quickly.”
This past April, Renée organized a special dedication to Gabby in the spirit of celebrating Autism Acceptance Month. Team members were invited to wear blue as part of their Theme Thursdays and as a way to honor Gabby and her hard work to be a team player.
Gabby, who lives with her parents Jaime and Jason, was homeschooled, along with her older sister Sky, by Maryann beginning after nursery school right through graduation at 18. Typically, young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities age out of secondary school at 21, but Maryann’s dedication and Gabby’s intellectual curiosity got her through early.
“She’s always enjoyed reading, and just took to learning,” Maryann said.
When Gabby isn’t at Red Lion, she keeps active attending the Pathways Day Program at Jessica & Friends Community in York, where she continues to work on skill building. It’s through Pathways that she learned to play bells and to read music, becoming a member of the organization’s Hosanna Ringers.
She spends a lot of her time pursuing her artistic talents which include playing the piano (you’ll often find her playing during breaks between performances at the Church of the Open Door), drawing, and, until her schedule filled up, performing with Theatre Arts for Everyone.
“I also sing in the choir of my church Shiloh Lutheran every Sunday,” Gabby added. “I like being busy.”
“She’s a very outgoing person, who really enjoys being around people,” said Maryann
As for her colleagues at Red Lion, they’re glad to have Gabby as part of the team.
“The whole team absolutely adores her,” said Renée. “She’s just a ray of sunshine. Even if you’re having a bad day, you know it will be a good one because Gabby’s here.”