Drive for Independence - Penn-Mar

Drive for Independence

Posted on April 1, 2019

This past November, Charlie Nickel took a huge step towards full independence when he moved into his own apartment. He was quick to note, and proudly too, that this is not the first time he’s lived on his own.

Charlie, 52, has always striven for independence. Raised in a foster home from the age of six to 21, he learned to depend on himself, yet accept the support of others to get where he is today. Throughout his life he said he’s been very responsible.

“I’ve pretty much worked all my life,” said Charlie. “I always had a summer job as a teenager. I wanted to get a car someday, but my foster mom didn’t want me to work. I told her ‘don’t you want me to get ahead?’”

Getting ahead has been a motivating factor in Charlie’s life. In 1988, when he turned 21, he got his driver’s license, it was also at that time that his foster mother passed away and his affiliation with Penn-Mar began. For three years he lived with his foster brother, and then moved into an apartment on his own in Cockeysville, Md., where he lived until moving into a Penn-Mar residence in 2004.

On the Job

Charlie’s responsible work ethic has landed him stable employment for most of his life, and his track record and employment reviews have been nothing short of stellar. For nearly seven years, he has been working at Apple Car Wash Express in York, Pa., as a Flex Detailer. Prior to Apple, Charlie worked for Penn-Mar Ink for four years, where he remanufactured inkjet cartridges using state-of-the-art machinery and equipment, and also delivered the cartridges to clients in southern York County.

Penn-Mar Employment Support Coordinator Heather Laser does monthly check-ins on the job and sees to anything that has to do with his job at Apple Car Wash Express.

“Charlie takes pride in his work, and was very excited to get his second raise recently,” Heather said. “They are very pleased with his performance there.”

Kelly McCoy Smith, Apple’s General Manager, absolutely raves about Charlie, added Heather.

Charlie works Monday to Friday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., and reports directly to Kelly. “She’s a very good boss. She’s very supportive,” he said.

As a Flex Detailer, Charlie works out on the dealership lots of the Apple Autopark ensuring that the cars on the various lots are clean and regularly spruced up while for sale.


“Charlie always shows up early and ready to work,” said Kelly. “He has a positive attitude and never shies away from a hard day’s work. He’s committed and someone we can count on.”

In addition to his responsibilities on the Apple lots, every Thursday, Charlie and one of his supervisors drive out to a car auction, where Charlie makes sure that all of Apple’s cars are kept clean for the auction line.

When Kelly took over as General Manager three years ago, the company vehicle that Charlie drove was in pretty bad shape.

“We had this horrid looking van,” she said. “Rusted and dented it read along the side ‘Follow me to Apple Car Wash Express.’ Who would want to follow that to the car wash? So I asked Charlie what he thought of the van. He looked at me and I said, Charlie I don’t like it and I want to get a new van. He was so excited about that.”

Kelly researched vehicles that would be safe for someone of his short stature to drive and had him test out a few. They settled on a Honda CRV and had it wrapped. Charlie himself owns a 2003 Honda Civic, which he bought from a Penn-Mar employee.

“Charlie does just as good of a job as anybody else would do in this position, if not better actually,” said Kelly, who inspired by her experience working with Charlie has begun forming relationships with other human service organizations.

“I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to sit around for too long,” said Charlie. “I’m always up doing something. I like to keep busy. I like my job at Apple and the people I work with. They’re friendly and helpful and we all get along just great.”

Kelly admits that for a lot of people who come through Apple the work is temporary. For Charlie, she said, it’s a forever position which she sees as a big benefit to the company. “We can count on him day in and day out to be here and do a good job.”

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