Taking “Essential” Pride in Work Through the Pandemic - Penn-Mar

Taking “Essential” Pride in Work Through the Pandemic

Posted on October 15, 2020

Love is in the air at the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill on Roosevelt Avenue in York, Pa. You might call it a “Blizzard” of love, which for 30-year-old Trisha Conley all started on Valentine’s Day of last year, and is still going strong.

Staying positive and hopeful through these challenging times has not been easy for anybody, but Trisha has been making the best of it, staying on through the pandemic as an essential employee and spreading joy every time she walks through the doors to begin her shift.

Like Trisha, Mike Ingram, who just turned 56, is also trying to stay positive through these tough times, he said. He has remained at his housekeeping job as an essential employee at the senior living community SpiriTrust Lutheran, The Village at Shrewsbury through the pandemic. His job, which he began more than three years ago, entails thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing the community’s main areas and keeping himself safe while at it.

“We wear masks and gloves, and I’ve been tested [for COVID] three times,” said Mike.

“Trisha and Mike are very dedicated to their jobs and doing them very well,” said Courtney Harless, Penn-Mar PA Employment Support Manager, who oversees all job supports for both individuals. “They are proud of their work, and their employers have only glowing things to say about them.”

Always a Good Day

Trisha, who lives with her grandmother Beverly Henry, came to Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment (CE) program through the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation. Today, all of her job supports are provided by Penn-Mar’s employment program, which serves more than 100 residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities in careers in various industries in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

A woman at work in the back of a restaurant.

Trisha Conley, smiling behind her mask, and on the job at the Dairy Queen Grill & Chill in York, Pa. ”Trisha is pure joy,” said owner John Miller.

At Dairy Queen, Trisha is responsible for sanitizing and cleaning kitchen work stations, equipment and utensils, as well as removing trash. “Pretty much whatever they need me to do,” she said.

“I love my job. I love the people there,” said Trisha. “They are understanding, and I can’t think of a better place to work at.”

Her love for her job has led her to speak at a number of networking events organized by Penn-Mar Career Counselor Tricia Zeltwanger, who worked with Trisha to land her first real job at Dairy Queen.

“She takes such pride in her work that she loves telling people about it,” said Courtney. “She just glows when she talks about her job.”

Beverly, who has been taking her granddaughter to and from work ever since transportation was suspended due to the pandemic, is thrilled that Trisha is working: “It’s good for her. It gets her out of the house and socializing with people.”

“Trisha is pure joy, and her biggest assets are her personality and her approach to work,” said John Miller, who with his wife Pam own and operate the Dairy Queen in York. “The rest of us have bad days and good days, she just has good days. Whenever there’s a new crewmember, she’s always the first one to say hi and make them feel welcome.”

Driven to Be Independent

Mike is the youngest of five and lives with his brother Mark Ingram in Shrewsbury. Over the years he’s held a number of jobs that he obtained through Penn-Mar’s Customized Employment program, the last at Toys “R” Us where he worked for several years before the company declared bankruptcy in 2017, closing all of its locations.

Mike Ingram

Mike Ingram, sporting his face shield while at SpiriTrust Lutheran, The Village at Shrewsbury.

“Mike is an even-keeled kind of guy,” said Tricia Zeltwanger. “He’s a great worker and quick learner, and loves his independence. He would love to have more of it.”

“He’s also an advocate for himself and others,” added Courtney. “If he or anyone is in some kind of distress, he doesn’t hesitate to seek out help.”

Mike, when not working, keeps active in his church. He has been driving since he was 19, a point of pride in his aim for independence. His brother Doug, who spoke to us for this story, said that working has always been important and essential for Mike, not only so that he can earn a paycheck, but also take responsibility for himself.

“Penn-Mar has been a great support for Mike,” Doug said. “He’s had great placements over the years.”

Summing it all up perfectly, Mike said: “If we didn’t have work, I don’t know what else we’d do in life.”

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