Work – May 2022

Ivan:  Work changed my life

“I am a hard-working man,” Ivan said. “Maybe because I am a Viking. My ancestors came from Norway.” As he talked about work, he said, “New Danville changed my life. Work changed my life.”

Work is not just about earning money, though Ivan admits a paycheck is pretty motivating. Work is about helping people, including yourself, he explained.

Ivan has worked at a variety of companies ranging from production, fast food, senior care and landscaping, among others. Working hard does not mean just working at a paying job, according to Ivan. He cites classes, particularly scrapbooking and woodshop, as places to work hard and to grow.

“I learned to be positive from my parents and from work,” Ivan explained. His job coach while he attended high school in Conroe taught him many things, too, he said. “She taught us to have a good attitude. Be on time. Be responsible and have good hygiene. The hardest part is showing up on time. I miss her and the school.” He graduated in 2004.

“I like to be busy,” Ivan emphasized as he described the various jobs he has held, the classes at New Danville that he loves and how he helps his family with lawn maintenance. “I am never bored at New Danville. I don’t like to be bored.”

Ivan hopes to someday be a resident in Meadowbrook, New Danville’s residential community. In the meantime, he enjoys all aspects of the rural environment and attending day program activities. Ivan says he learns by doing more so than just listening. “In work I learned a lot. I learned to help other people. I learned to help people with special needs.”

Work – April 2022

From Pallets to Pizza “Because there are bills to pay.”

About a month ago, Becky changed jobs from being a member of the pallet crew (see the article here about the Pallets to Partners program with Charbonneau Industries). Though she loved being part of the crew, the hours were inconsistent, as with many manufacturing-type jobs.  “I had bills to pay,” she said with a smile, “so I asked my parents if I could find a job in the community. My first job ever was in the community and they said to go ahead and try to find one. I started at Incredible Pizza (in Conroe) and love it.”

“I applied to work where the games are played but they asked if I was interested in working in the kitchen. I told them that I didn’t have experience there, but they said they were sure I could learn. They hired me on the spot! I think it was because I was happy and smiling.  Maybe they liked my dimples,” she said with her ever-present smile.

She was reminded about how important being a good team member is. “They don’t want anyone who is a gossiper or folks who talk about others.”

Her parents suggested she get the opinions of others who know the restaurant or who worked there so she could learn about the company, just as they would learn about her in the interview. A current Wrangler and resident, Justin, worked there in the past and had great things to say about working there, Becky said. With that information, she pursued an interview.  Right after she was hired, Spring Break hit and the restaurant was very busy. Normally there are three to five tubs of dough to roll and weigh, but during Spring Break they had nine.  “But I was able to keep up!” she said.

It was easy to get to work when she was on the pallet crew since the Charbonneau Family Building where the pallets are made is only a couple of hundred yards from her home on the New Danville campus. She has transportation worked out for her new job with New Danville and her special guy, Blake. Commuting provides opportunity.  “I like to work in the community because I can run errands and shop on the way home, too,” she said.

Work – March 2022

Meet Jazzy Junque’s new retail manager

Michelle Willie fondly remembers when Jazzy Junque, New Danville’s upscale home décor resale store in the Outlets in Conroe, first opened for business. She never expected to be working there, but is excited about the opportunity.

“I worked at Dress Barn in the Outlets in Conroe for 14 years. When they closed their stores, I figured I would retire.  A year and one-half later, I wanted to get back to the retail world. I got the itch to be back around people. I started at Jazzy Junque as a part-time cashier. In February, I became the retail manager and couldn’t be happier.”

Michelle was pleasantly surprised at the number of her former customers who are also Jazzy Junque shoppers. “It is wonderful to see old acquaintances as well as meet new people every day,” she said.

Michelle has exciting plans to continue to improve processes and the shopping experience at Jazzy Junque. She also intends to get out in the community to help share the good news about the store and all that it offers. “We always welcome shoppers and volunteers,” she said.

Anyone interested in volunteering at Jazzy Junque can fill out this form. To learn more about the store or to sign up for its newsletter, contact the store at 936-441-4500.

Work – February 2022

It’s not the work, it’s the people

Holly has held a variety of jobs since high school as well as a few volunteer roles. Her mother, Carolyn, said that jobs are part of the formula to be sure that Holly’s days are fulfilling to her by being busy in activities that make her feel useful, needed and appreciated.  While those may be the outcomes, to Holly there is one thing that matters:  people. What she likes about all the jobs she has had is the people.

Currently working as a volunteer at the Walker County Senior Center, she helps seniors with the various games and activities they offer. Her favorite is Wii bowling, a virtual version of the game that uses the body motions required for the sport. “I like to help them with bingo, too,” Holly added with her ever-ready big smile. She hopes that the volunteer role will turn into a job in the future.

When asked if she believes that her work helps make people happy, she replied, “Oh yes!”  But who is happier after working with the seniors, her or them?  She laughed while pointing at herself, “Me!”

Holly has enjoyed being around people in jobs ranging from bussing tables at various restaurants to packaging seals in plastic bags to working in a nonprofit’s thrift store. Not surprisingly, what she loved most about all the jobs was the people she worked with and the customers.

One “job” that she is particularly excited about is that of being an aunt. She is about to be an aunt again, making it the eighth time. She is thrilled.

“People are good to me,” Holly said. Perhaps that is because she reveals how much she likes them.

Work – January 2022

It takes work to tackle something new

“Effort only releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” ~ Napoleon Hill

Whether it is climbing a mountain or learning how to tie your shoes, learning something new requires work and persistence. In a recent conversation with Debbie Rigsby, the Direct Support Professional who works with our Wrangler IIs, we learned about sharing some of the things they were proud of learning that required extra work and effort.

Wrangler IIs at New Danville have been putting the focus and attention it takes to learn new things. Nothing new can be learned without those two things, and effort, too.

Aaron can now find books at the Montgomery County Library on his own and is a big fan of Disney books. When asked if he likes going to the library, he replied with a big smile and a “Yes!” He proudly showed off his sheet of paper with words that begin with the letter “A.”

Debbie said that the class is working on a variety of things that take repetition and reinforcement, as all lessons require. “They don’t give up,” she said. “We all work on it together.”

Along with everyone learning about manners, patience, and common courtesy, there are individual success stories of proud Wranglers IIs. Patrick can find his computer on the shelf by himself and Triston can now better communicate by touching pictures on an iPad which then conveys the word for it. (For more information about the grant from the Madelyn Cooke Foundation that made the technology available to New Danville, read here.) Learning new things takes work and 2022 will reveal another year of Wrangler IIs performing work to learn new things.

Work: Dec 2021

Working in the Community Has Benefits

Marlon and David have worked in the community for a combined total of almost 30 years. They have gained a lot from their efforts in addition to pay checks, and they have great wisdom to share from their experiences.

Start by practicing: David began working for HEB grocery stores 18 years ago. While in high school, his teacher had students practice for jobs, and David practiced bagging groceries. He started as a bagger for HEB and is now a parking lot attendant. As the chain has expanded in the area, he has transferred to different stores, bringing him closer and closer to New Danville where he lives.

Learn and learn some more: Marlon worked for McDonald’s for eight years and has worked for Whataburger for the past two years.  He takes pride in his work – he has won awards for his service – and attributes his ability to do well to his commitment to always strive to learn something new.

It is not always easy, and that’s okay: Marlon and David agree that work can sometimes be hard. Whether it is dealing with summer heat while working in the parking lot, or having to clean up an area after the lunch rush, they both say that there are times they are tired when they get home from a full day. Neither of them mind it because of the sense of independence the job provides and because of the people they meet.

It is the people that matter: They share something else in common regarding their views about work:  It is about the people. People matter. Marlon says that what inspires him to learn on the job and to deliver award-winning service is because he likes to help people. David shares that, while he doesn’t have as much contact with customers in his current role as he did in the past, he enjoys interacting with them.  “I like meeting customers,” he said.

Never have a bad day: Marlon sums up more than work; he sums up life and attitude. With a big smile, he said, “I never have a bad day.” That is a choice he makes. “Everything is going to be okay; don’t be sad.”  Words to live by.

Work – November 2021

Emily doesn’t complain about work, nor the commute.  She enjoys working – always has – and her commute is a two-minute walk from her home at New Danville to the new Charbonneau Family Building where the pallet production team does its magic.

Emily has held several jobs over the years. Her mother said that Emily has been busy all her life whether the work effort was for play or pay. “Emily enjoyed being a cheerleader and playing basketball, as well as racing in the 500m event in swimming. She never quit; she just kept swimming. She has had jobs putting ball bearings on rings and making gift boxes. She works hard at everything, I’d say. She doesn’t want to just do things, but understand them, too.  That is the way it was when she learned to read, too.”

An early team member of the Pallets to Partners project, Emily learned her skills from  Sherry Franklin, aka “The Pallet Lady,” who recently retired. She is proud to have been able to teach her boyfriend those skills, too, when he joined the pallet team later.

“I enjoy making the pallets,” she said. Almost always seen with earbuds in while she works, Emily enjoys listening to rock music while working amidst the sounds of drills and other power tools. “It helps to keep out the noise,” she said.

When it came time to put names of the pallet team in the sidewalk outside the Charbonneau Family Building, someone put Emily’s in for her.  When reminded, “It will be there forever,” she smiled and nodded.  There are many ways that work provides long-term results.

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.”

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