Lightening the Load - Penn-Mar

Lightening the Load

Posted on August 2, 2019

Normandie Ridge, the Continuous Care Retirement Community in York, Pa., didn’t have a dedicated dishwasher until two years ago, when York native Michael Blashock took on the job.

As Normandie Ridge Food Service Director Chris Rhoades put it, dining services staff would routinely step in to wash dishes, and although they still do when Michael isn’t on the scene, his customized role has taken a lot of the burden off coworkers during the busiest and most crucial hours in the kitchen, which prepares three meals a day, every day for more than 300 residents.

The Cold Call

Michael, 35, receives residential services through Life’s New Beginning, a York-based human services provider founded four years ago. He has held various jobs over the years starting while he was a student at Eastern York High School. In the years before landing his job at Normandie Ridge he worked at York College, and Gabe’s, where he was in charge of maintenance and clean up. He applied to Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment Program in early 2017, and given his prior work experience breezed through the program’s Exploration & Discovery process. It was at that time that Penn-Mar Career Counselor Patty Trexler made the fateful cold call to Normandie Ridge and set up an appointment to meet with the then HR Director.

“Normandie Ridge was very interested in learning about an opportunity to customize positions and get involved in the community,” said Patty. “They were very open to and very supportive of hiring people with disabilities and went to great lengths to create several job opportunities. They’ve been so great to work with.”

Chris Rhoades was the hiring manager for Michael and said that he was immediately open to the idea of hiring someone with a disability to join the 33-member dining services team when the HR Director first approached him. He considered that whoever was ultimately hired would be an asset to the company.

“Once we hired Michael, Penn-Mar’s job coaches came on board and there was a lot of great communication between them and myself, and even our staff about what Michael could and couldn’t do and what we needed him to do,” Chris said. “They worked very hard in training him and getting him where he needed to be. It worked out very well and I can’t say enough about Penn-Mar.”

Staying Busy

By his own admission Michael doesn’t like to be idle. He loves to work and stay active both on the job and in his personal life. At work his job isn’t just consigned to washing dishes. He does trash and palette removal and any task asked of him.

“Michael is a great team member. He’s very helpful, a hard worker, and fits in well with the group,” said Chris. “It’s really nice to have a person who works in a department that everybody likes and enjoys working with. Typically in a food service department there can be a lot of drama. He doesn’t create drama and we’re thankful.”

Over the course of the two years that Michael’s been at Normandie Ridge, Carol Holewinski, his job coach, has made note of how much of a great worker he is and how eager he is to learn new things.

Both Carol and Patty agree, “He’s a joy to work with.”

Michael’s ultimate dream job would be to work with computers – anything that has to do with computers, but for now he’s enjoying his work at Normandie Ridge, and the great relationships he’s fostered on the job.

“We all get our work done,” he said. “There’s always something different to do there, which makes it interesting. But it’s just fun to go there. You never know what’s going to happen.”

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