Robert has always wanted to work. When Marie DeFranca, an Employment Specialist at Pine Tree Society, began working with him, Robert was attending a day program for adults with intellectual disabilities five days a week. But Robert wanted to work.
“He loves to work. He loves hard work, dirty work, fast work, machines and power tools,” said DeFranca.
In fact, Robert had three goals: to find a 40-hour-a-week job he loves, to move into a new apartment and to get his driver’s license.
He and Marie talked about past jobs and what did and didn’t work for him. During their conversations, she learned that 10 years ago he worked for a recycling company near his home and truly loved it. When the company moved to a new location, it was too far away for him to commute on public transportation and changing his living arrangement wasn’t financially feasible.
Rather than tackle everything at once, as a first step, they decided to search for a meaningful full-time job, and then find ways for the housing and transportation to fall into place.
“One day, we were driving to Portland and on the way there he told me to pull over,” said Marie. “He said, ‘Go there. I used to work down there.’ We went inside and people recognized him. It was old home week with high fives all around.”
The company was Casella and this was the new location they’d moved to when he needed to leave them a decade before.
“Robert said ‘I’m looking for a job, do you have a job?’” said Marie. “He’s a real advocate for himself.”
The manager remembered what a dedicated and capable worker Robert had been and asked him to come back for a trial period. In no time at all, they offered him a permanent job.
“It took me a long time to get the right job,” said Robert. “I love it.”
His primary responsibility is sorting paper into different grades before feeding it into the bailer.
“There’s a conveyor belt that goes up to the bailer,” said Robert. “If something jams I can fix it. I’m learning all the jobs.”
“He learns quickly,” said Marie. “He can learn any new equipment.”
In recognition of his value, Robert not only received a raise and retirement benefits, this month he will achieve his ultimate goal of working full-time.
“I’m looking forward to that very much,” he said.
The additional income will allow him to afford a new apartment closer to work so he doesn’t need to take the bus.
“Robert’s bosses have told us many times that they wish all workers were as dedicated and hard working as he is,” said Michelle Girard-Lynds, an Employment Specialist at Pine Tree Society who is now supporting Robert’s as a Long-Term Job Coach.
His pride in his job and the support he receives from his employer has positively affected his life in countless ways.
“He’s much more confident. He knows he’s doing a good job and how his bosses feel about him,” Girard-Lynds said. “He picks up on everything. He’s interested in learning about retirement. He asks a lot of questions when there’s something new going on in the news that he hears about at work. When he hears a new word, he’s not afraid to ask what that means. He gets along really well with the people he works with and his ability to trouble shoot when something goes wrong has improved.”
DeFranca agreed. “He’s really learning how to communicate. He’s comfortable and people are comfortable with him. There are great natural supports for him there at Casella.”
Robert is thankful for the on-going help he receives from his coworkers, bosses and support team at Pine Tree Society but he also knows that it’s his personal commitment to his goals that brought him back full circle to Casella.
“I did the hard work,” he said. “I am very proud of my job.”