Posted on August 18, 2022
Penn-Mar resident Jimmy Dietrich is not going to rest until he finds his next perfect job, which he eagerly hopes will be soon.
Until March of 2020, when the world went into COVID lockdown, Jimmy had been happily working at Brothers Services Company for more than three years. A well-liked employee, he worked independently in the roofing and remodeling company’s Hampstead, Md., warehouse and was always on hand to help anyone in need. Among his many tasks, he assisted with preparing orders, stocking materials, and regularly sweeping the parking lot with a large magnet that picked up nails and other metals – an essential job that kept the company’s fleet of trucks free of punctured tires.
With the pandemic lockdown, unfortunately, Jimmy lost his position at Brothers, and due to restructuring it wasn’t made available again. Although he was hopeful of returning at first, he’s now set his sights on finding his next dream job, one in which he can use his capable hands, ideally to help people in whatever way he can.
“Jimmy’s been dying to get back into the workforce,” said Jason Smith, a Penn-Mar Job Developer, who has been with the nonprofit for four years and transitioned over to the Customized Employment (CE) program this past May. “He was very eager to meet the ‘new job developer,’ my first week in.”
Jason likened the start of his new role to treading water and said, “you’re figuring everything out and then after a while you realize the water is your natural element after all.”
For the employment team connecting with community businesses and employers is sometimes like swimming upstream – there’s often a resistance to hiring people with disabilities. But things have been changing, and Penn-Mar has been very successful in making significant inroads in the business community and matching individuals who are keen to work, their skills and talents, with the needs of employers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“Through cold-calls or stop-ins, businesses have been responding to our outreach very positively overall, despite the challenges the pandemic has created,” said Jason. “They tend to be very receptive when they hear that we’re here to support people with disabilities who are job seekers.”
Except for these past two years, Jimmy, who became a Penn-Mar resident in 2013, has been steadily employed holding down customized positions with Sea Solar Power, Lowes and then Brothers. Through the CE program’s Exploration and Discovery process, Jimmy’s skills with using his hands became apparent and led to those earlier jobs.
Given Jimmy’s desire to work with his hands, one thing Jason and the CE team are looking to discover is how adept he is at using hand and power tools. Testing out those skills is the next step in customizing a position in a workshop or with a construction company.
“Ideally it would be wonderful for him to have a paying job where he’s working in some capacity with hand tools in some maintenance related field that he finds meaningful,” said Jason.
“I would like to do fieldwork and help people rebuild their homes,” said Jimmy, who is sympathetic to families whose homes have been damaged or lost in recent natural disasters. “Building, fixing and helping people, is what I want to do.”
Right now, Jason and the team are exploring all the options and regularly bouncing off ideas with Jimmy. One option includes outreach to other disability providers who might need maintenance assistance.
“There are so many things that he is capable of doing and another provider would be able to make a good assessment of what Jimmy’s comfortable doing and able to do with his knowledge, and how he can build on that knowledge and find a way to employ him,” said Jason.
Jimmy knows it’s only a matter of time before he is working again with the help of Jason and the team, but he is itching to get back out there.
“I just want to get back to work. I’m looking forward to a change,” he said.
Dear Reader: If you or someone you know is looking for entry-level assistance with maintenance, light construction, or to fill a handyman assistant position and would like to learn more about Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment program and to meet Jimmy, please contact Jason Smith at 443.491.9646, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org