Louise started with KSI Pre-Vocational Services in the 1970s, joining others in packaging operations at the Milford Skill Development Center as well as working on community-based crews in Dover at Kraft Heinz Foods and Scott Paper, which later became Procter & Gamble Dover Wipes plant. Before her current job at Royal Farms, Louise worked for 15 years with the ongoing help of KSI Supported Employment in a fast food restaurant cleaning the dining room and helping as a fry cook during lunch rushes.
“I’ve been working my whole life,” Louise said, noting that she lives independently with the money she makes working.
The mission of KSI is to assist people with disabilities in the pursuit of their potential in employment and meaningful participation in their communities. KSI as an organization believes that the opportunity to contribute and grow as a person is important to all people, especially people with disabilities. Community integration allows their associates to learn, be successful and to interact with people in the pursuit of common goals or outcomes. The program is celebrated for creating opportunities for choice, education, recreation, and socialization and allows their associates a chance to discover talents and skills they never knew they had.
In 2016, Louise came out of a brief retirement and started working at Royal Farms in Dover, again with the support of a KSI Employment Specialist. And it turned out to be a great fit for work in her later years. “The people are nice. My boss and coworkers are nice. And it’s not stressful,” Louise related. “We have real teamwork here.”
At Royal Farms, she refills coffee dispensers, cleans the coffee bar and serving area, restocks supplies and interacts with customers daily. While Louise doesn’t consider it hard work compared to some of her previous jobs, her attention and pride in her work stands heads and shoulders above others’ performance in the same job.
“It’s amazing,” Louise’s Royal Farms supervisor Tara Martz said. “I’ve been through three coffee people in the last year before Louise. And I can’t tell you how many complaints I had about their work. But since Louise has come, I haven’t had any complaints.”
Louise has built healthy relationships with the store’s customers. And when she’s not scheduled to work, those patrons really notice the difference. “When I’m not here, customers are missing me bad. They love me,” shared Louise. “That makes me feel proud. And it makes me feel wanted.”