Adversity Met With Challenge, Conquered By Success

  • Jamie Coulson |
  • | Mission

Plates are stacked and rushed to the back. The sound of the dishwasher engulfs the ally of the kitchen. Silverware is piled high and plates clink as they are loaded and unloaded from the large plastic dish racks. In the thick of it all is a man in a ball cap sorting and stacking. His name is Larry.

Larry began his journey back in 2017 when he was referred to Goodwill by his case manager. Being visually impaired, Larry has faced difficulty maintaining employment. “It was my determination for work and to find employment that made me decide to go to Goodwill,” said Larry. Enrolling in the Food Service Skills Training Program, Larry figured this would help him make his first step to successful employment.

Perseverance for Work

The supervisor that Larry worked with during his training worked with him one-on-one to teach him specific tasks.

“She was really good at explaining things,” said Larry. She taught him how to make the cookies, worked with him on dishwashing, and even showed him how to plate up food that would be served.

During his time in skills training, Larry learned that to be successful in his work he would have to become familiar in the areas he was working.

“You know, I had to learn the layout and where things go,” he explained. “I learned that I had to communicate a lot and know when to ask for help.”

Larry made a tremendous amount of progress during his skills training. So much so that in March of 2017, Larry was presented with an Achiever of the Month Award. To receive this award, participants must exhibit the values of Goodwill, progress toward their goals, and display a positive attitude. During this time, Larry was making and meeting his goals consistently.

Larry was partnered with job coach Karin Carver at the end of his training. The two have been working together off and on since their initial pairing in 2017. Karin has helped Larry as he has navigated through jobs in the food service industry. “Working with Karin has been great,” said Larry.

Karin worked with Larry at a previous job that was full of challenges. Working during the fast-paced dinner rush was not ideal given the speed Larry would have to work at to keep up with such a high turnover.

Through his previous jobs, Larry learned that to do his job well, he needed to find new ways of performing his daily tasks.

“What works for one person might not work for me,” said Larry. “There was a blind employee at another job I worked, and they tried teaching me how to do the job the same way they did, and that just didn’t work for me.”

Through trial and error, Larry ultimately found systems that have been effective in doing his job. “I found new, different ways of doing things that are much quicker and easier for me,” Larry said. “Don’t ever be afraid to try alternatives. You have to do what works best for you.”

Challenge Conquered

Both Karin and Larry feel that working at Panera is a much better fit for him. The atmosphere is lighthearted, and the scheduling is much more ideal.

“You run into a lot of jokesters here, and that’s alright with me,” said Larry. A self-proclaimed jokester, Larry fits right in with the rest of his co-workers. “I like to have fun and make the most of what I am doing,”

Larry’s success has come in a variety of ways. Being in an inviting environment is one way Larry has been able to succeed in his job.

“He has very supportive supervisors,” said Karin. “They understand what he can and cannot do, but they still hold him to the same standard as everyone else with the tasks he is able to accomplish.”

Larry is known as a rock star to his fellow co-workers. “They really feel like he is a contributing member to the team,” explained Karin. “They see him working hard and are all very patient with him.” 

Having consistency in his job and the tasks he performs has also helped Larry gain momentum in his work. According to him, once he gets on a roll there is no stopping. His dedication for work has led him to set yet another goal: to work independently.

To reach his desired goal Larry, is now phasing out working with his job coach. “Some days she is with me and some she is not,” Larry explained. This is a gradual progression that will ultimately allow Larry full independence on the job.

Having been at Panera for six months now, Larry has built up his self-esteem and has routine in his day to day. “My goal was to maintain employment and I know that I am secure here at Panera. I really like it a lot.”

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