Kent-Sussex Industries, Inc. (KSI) celebrated the career of one of its longest-standing supported employees, Dover resident Louise Smith, during a retirement luncheon in her honor on September 3, 2014. Ms. Smith decided to retire in August 2014 from her job at the McDonald’s restaurant location on Route 10 in Dover after working in community jobs since 1995 with the help KSI’s Supported Employment specialists. KSI’s Supported Employment program helps individuals with developmental disabilities to gain and retain community-integrated employment, enabling them to succeed for the companies hiring them.
Louise worked food prep and custodial jobs for more than 10 years before being hired by McDonald’s in May of 2006. She started on the grill, handling the busy lunch period three to four days a week. Eventually, she added cleaning the lobby, stocking supply shelves, keeping beverages filled and even cleaning floors to her list of duties. It took a lot of energy, but work allowed her to make the money she needed to have real choices in her life. So she persevered and stayed with the restaurant for more than eight years.
“When I first got there, I worked on the grill. But when I needed to slow down, they put me in the lobby,” Ms. Smith remembers. “There have been a lot of changes over the years. I’ve seen a lot of staff and managers come and go.”
McDonald’s Rt. 10 Dover location owner Sanders Management Corporation agrees that Louise’s longevity with the restaurant was unique, and a real asset to the restaurant during busy lunch business. “A successful business is largely based on having a happy and healthy work environment. Louise’s reliability, hospitality and strong work ethic contributed greatly,” remarked Sanders Management Corporation proprietors Mark & Lanie Salebra. “She became a leader in the restaurant and someone who we counted on over the years. Her absence will be felt each day. Louise will always be a member of our ‘McFamily.’”
KSI Supported Employment services provide assessment, training, job development and follow-along services to help independent employees in competitive community jobs succeed long-term for their employers. For Louise, KSI was always there to support her throughout the course of her employment with McDonald’s to help her negotiate challenges that could affect her work performance.
“We did follow-along with Louise for the last eight years where we touched base with her a couple of times a month at the worksite,” explains KSI Employment Manager Kami Giglio. “When she had issues with transportation or relationships with coworkers, we helped her negotiate those challenges. We’d also periodically assess training needs with her supervisors to make sure she was prepared for the job. Ultimately, she was counted on as McDonald’s main grill person during the lunch rush.”
Through her experience as a long standing valued employee at McDonald’s, Ms. Smith took a solid leadership role with other KSI Supported Employment placements at the restaurant. She helped acclimate and train her peers, taking care to teach them safe practices so they could avoid injury and perform their jobs to McDonald’s standards.
Now entirely ready for her retirement, Louise intends to continue her travels to exotic island locations. She has already taken cruises, traveling to Hawaii, St. Thomas, St. Martins and the Grand Cayman Islands, and she has more cruises in mind for the future. When she is not globetrotting, Louise plans to spend time with her son in Felton and help guide her eight grandchildren through their development.
Louise will never forget the hard work and great rewards of her job at the Dover McDonald’s restaurant. “I had to push myself to go to work in the mornings sometimes. But I did it,” relates Ms. Smith. “I hope McDonald’s can get someone else to come in as reliably as I did.”