Work – October 2021

Justin’s mother said prior to the interview with him, “If he seems reserved or withdrawn, just ask him about his job.” Not that he was, but he sure enjoyed talking about past and present jobs, and the many other ways he stays busy. “I like working and being busy,” Justin said.

He has been a resident at Meadowbrook (New Danville’s residential community) since it opened in 2009.

Justin works as an associate in the stationary department at Wal-Mart. He has been there 13 years. “A lot of customers know me,” he said with a smile. Helping customers is his favorite part of the job. He shared that he also works in the seasonal department and sometimes he has assisted in the toy section. “The managers like the way I keep the departments clean and neat.”  When asked if he has the same success at home, he again smiles with “Well, I try to.”

Justin began his work life a bit before he turned 17 when he was hired by Kroger. Working is not the only way he stays busy, despite the challenges of his cerebral palsy-like condition. “It is not CP,” Justin said, “but the doctors have to call it something.” Again, a broad smile follows his observation. While in high school, he was a member of both the swim team and water polo club. Fitness, particularly swimming, remains a key element of his busy schedule. On the days that he is not working, he goes to the rec center to walk, swim and lift weights. He swims between 1200 and 1600 meters each day that he goes to the center.

Justin keeps his mind busy, too. Always has. “I received a web design certificate. I learned Dreamweaver and Illustrator, and some other applications,” he said. “I wasn’t real big on English class in school so I had to find something else for a class. I have a lot of knowledge.” Again, the smile. Shakespeare said, “He is well paid that is well satisfied.” In Shakespeare’s view, Justin is rich, indeed.

Work – September 2021

When a neighbor needs help, you do what you can, whether it is helping with a project, moving something heavy, or whatever is needed. When the neighbor is a state, the response is the same: Do what you can.  The New Danville family recently stepped up for its neighbors to the East, providing work in service.

Neighbors in Louisiana need help and the New Danville family recently had a project that involves moving something heavy:  New Danville helped to collect non-perishable food, bottled water, cleaning supplies, diapers, hand wipes/sanitizers, pet food, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, and other items needed by those who suffered from the effects of Hurricane Ida. Donations were collected at Jazzy Junque, New Danville’s upscale home décor resale shop in the south end of Outlets at Conroe.  Donated Items were taken to The Woodlands Methodist Church to be delivered to those in need.

It takes friends to help neighbors in challenging endeavors.  The Spring location of Two Men and a Truck has again collaborated with New Danville. Steve Ziara said of his moving company, “We’ve enjoyed our nearly 15 years of collaborating with New Danville. They do so much for the community and we are happy to do what we can with this latest effort by New Danville to help others.”

Odette D’Agostino, a New Danville Board Member and Co-Founder of Jazzy Junque, hails from Louisiana and was quick to act, rallying volunteers to gather and share donations.

Steve said, “Most of our jobs start and/or end in Montgomery County. We are very familiar with the area whether it is for our own clients or for the items we pick up from people who are donating to Jazzy Junque. It does not surprise me at all that the people of this area would step up so quickly to help our Louisiana neighbors.”

Work – August 2021

David Wallace has participated in the New Danville day program since its early beginnings.  He began the program in 2008 when there were less than 15 participants.  In 2010, he moved into his very own one-bedroom duplex.  When I asked him why he likes living here, he stated “I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and visiting them, but this is my home.  I’m independent here”. 

It is this sense of “I can” independence that he also carries to his employment.  David has worked as an HEB associate for 18 years.  I asked him what keeps him motivated and he simply stated, “I like to make money and have my own money to buy things.  I feel good about myself.  We are just like everybody else.”  David’s success as an employee is reflective of the values that New Danville upholds and instills in all of its participants: the belief that every adult has a sense of purpose and worth. 

David started working at HEB in Tomball in 2003 and now works in the Conroe area.  He says HEB is a great place to work.  He really likes his co-workers because everyone is “very nice and respectful, and they pay really well”.

It is easy to see how David is living his best life.

I’m not good with free time

While he described his work experiences and philosophies, I interjected a question, “You think a lot, don’t you?”  He inhaled a bit and replied, “Yes.” Even when Robert Egley is not keeping his hands busy with work, his mind is working on ideas, concepts, plans and the next opportunity to “move things along.”

Adult with disabilities learns how to use scroll saw

Robert has lived at New Danville for several years and has worked in a variety of jobs off- and on-site. He has produced a lot of things, not the least of which are philosophies about life, work, business and time.

“I’m not good with free time,” Robert said, adding that staying busy is good for him. Over the years at New Danville, he has been very busy. He has had many jobs, both on-site and off.  He delivers mail on-site and has worked in the woodworking area as well as in production, which includes packaging a variety of food products and making beauty (spa) products. He has worked in the community at a restaurant where he was stationed next to the sanitizing water. He is very proud that the manager could trust him with chemicals such as those. He cites the restaurant job as his most fun ever, largely because he was able to be in the community working with others who enjoy work.

Of his many roles, the production of bath and body products clearly made a big impact on him. When asked what his ideal next job would be, he said, “To help build a new building, a store in town that sells products. I would call it Mind, Body, Soul.”

Quick with metaphors to help explain his perspectives and philosophies on all manner of things, he often returns to the value and purpose of work. “It is good to get people jobs…it is the stuff that makes life meaningful. Jobs here helps accomplish the line of ‘self-sustaining’ from our mission.” Robert looks forward to the day that the sound of bulldozers moving dirt at 6:30 in the morning wakes him up as they prepare the land for future buildings at New Danville. “I will look up the hill and say, ‘I want to help build that.’”

“I’ve always had that firecracker personality,” Robert said, “and I like moving things along. I want a grand thing to do.” When asked whether others would describe his personality similarity, he paused long enough to take a sip of drink before replying with a simple “Yes.”

Pallets, Pallets, Pallets!

Charbonneau Industries approached New Danville in 2019 with an idea:  hire Wranglers to assemble pallets for them. The company needs pallets for the shipping of its products in the oil and gas industry. More than 4,500 pallets later, the program has been so successful that we are looking at other opportunities to do the same.  Thank you, Charbonneau Industries!

Luke Charbonneau said, “The US Oil & Gas Industry is very generous and innovative. At Ci, we found an innovative way to spread generosity and give back to our community. We designed pallet patterns and a work plan for the New Danville team that complemented their fabulously unique capabilities. The New Danville team is part of our supply chain for those pallets. It is our responsibility to find ways to reach out and be supportive and create mutually beneficial partnerships in our communities.”

Sherry Franklin, the Direct Support Professional who oversees the pallet-making project, uses the word “exciting” many times when describing what she has seen develop since the inception of the program. The Wranglers were excited, and remain so, about being able to produce something that generates wages for them and revenue for New Danville; they are excited when a new team member is added to be trained on the processes of producing pallets – there are seven members on the crew now; and, they are excited about moving into the new building that Charbonneau Industries built on-site to increase our project capacity.

“One of the greatest things is to see the Wranglers’ feelings of independence and the confidence they gain by being part of something like this,” Franklin said.

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