State Senator Dan Feyen (R-Fond du Lac) and State Representative Jeremy Thiesfeldt (R-Fond du Lac) joined Lakeland Care member Thomas Schmitz at Agnesian HealthCare in the statewide Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign on May 11. The Take Your Legislator to Work Campaign is organized each year by the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities (BPDD). The campaign coordinates visits between legislators and their constituents with disabilities so that legislators experience first-hand the economic and societal impacts of inclusion on their local communities.
Thomas has been employed with Agnesian HealthCare since October 2010. He washes, rinses and sanitizes pots and pans in the Food Service Department. “Thomas has shown great improvement over the years, stated Rich Nimkie, Head Chef, Operations Supervisor–Food Service at Agnesian HealthCare. “He is very independent and needs very little guidance. He comes in, puts on his hat and apron, washes his hands and gets right to task.” When Thomas started at Agnesian HealthCare he had a job coach from Diverse Options who initially worked with him every day. Staff at Agnesian HealthCare trained Thomas and his job coach how to properly wash the dishes and then gradually let Thomas work more and more independently until he was comfortable with the responsibilities of the job.
“Hiring people with disabilities fosters the culture that everyone belongs here and is part of something bigger,” stated Nimkie. “Thomas has such a positive impact on those he works with by always being dependable and rarely missing a day of work. Even though he may not be aware of it, Thomas has a direct effect on morale and the engagement of other associates in the department with his positive attitude.”
Thomas loves working in the community. “Employment is giving him the opportunity to learn new things and it’s a great feeling for him when he can master a task to do a job well,” said Thomas’ mom. Thomas really enjoys spending time with his co-workers and truly loves his job at Agnesian HealthCare. Having a job makes him feel valuable and part of a team. Thomas’ mom said, “I’ll never forget the day very early in his employment at Agnesian HealthCare that he came home and said ‘I’m a working man!’ He derives so much pride and confidence working side by side with the Food Services team who has been so supportive of him.”
Thomas enjoyed sharing his role at Agnesian HealthCare with Senator Feyen and Representative Thiesfeldt and was honored to be part of the Take Your Legislator to Work campaign. Senator Feyen stated, “The Take Your Legislator to Work campaign is a great program for the benefit of the individuals and for companies alike.” Senator Feyen was able to see how Thomas is a great worker and gets along well with everyone. Representative Thiesfeldt stated, “All God’s children have value in our society and I’m proud to live in a community where so many employers recognize this.”
Hiring people with disabilities benefits not only the individual, but the company as well. To learn more about the Take Your Legislator to Work campaign, visit www.wi-bpdd.org.