Wednesday, October 23, 2013
MANY HAPPY RETURNS: Evan Pirrello turns personal passion into employment
"When I was in high school, I wasn't quite sure what I wanted as a job, but I knew that I wanted to do something with the environment," Evan says, during a chat at Wegmans' Geneseo store, where he has worked since August. "I was interested in the environment and environmental science. Now, I work in recycling."
Evan works 20-30 hours a week overseeing the supermarket's bottle and can redemption room, which houses several automated machines into which customers feed their recyclable containers. These recyclables are automatically counted and collected into large bins located in a work area behind the redemption room. Evan empties the bins when they fill up, and takes the bottles and crushed cans to the back of the store where they are ultimately delivered to a recycling facility. He's also charged with keeping the customer and staff areas clean and stocked with supplies such as paper towels, soap, hand sanitizer, and trash bags.
"I think Evan is a very responsible and conscientious worker," says Sally Witter, one of two full-time employees who oversees the Wegmans service desk. "He's always on time, and he's friendly and easy to work with. Evan always sees that the bottle area is taken care of before he leaves or goes on break."
For Evan, the road to community employment began in 2007, at the Hilltop work center in East Avon, where he worked summer jobs as a high school student. At the facility, Evan worked alongside other individuals with disabilities as they soldered components for Star Headlight & Lantern Co., a manufacturer of emergency vehicle safety lighting.
In 2009, Evan made the transition to college. He attended Genesee Community College with financial and moral support from New York State's Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) program. With guidance from counselor Rodney Evans, Evan maintained an overall grade point average of 3.6, while studying cultural anthropology, human diversity, and meteorology, among other courses. Evan continued to work part time throughout his 2 1/2 year term at GCC.
After graduation, Evan enrolled in Hilltop's Work Readiness program, which combines workshops on job interviewing and resume writing with tours of prominent local businesses. To further his marketability, Evan also spent about three months working at Hilltop's own bottle and can redemption center in Mount Morris, sorting recyclables by hand and honing his service skills. When the opportunity to interview at Wegmans arose, Evan was ready.
"He just nailed the interview," says Hilltop Job Developer Roxanne Adamson, of the Job Readiness program. "I smile when I think of it, because he was almost too good. Evan had studied all of the right materials. He knew the year that Wegmans was number one on the Fortune magazine list, and all of the years that they were in the top 10. It was like a commercial for Wegmans. I wish that we could have taped it."
Today, Evan is a largely independent worker. Bob Haslett, a Hilltop Job Coach, joins Evan about twice a month, and keeps in touch with his supervisors. But Evan routinely drives to-and-from work from his home in Nunda, and goes about his daily duties at Wegmans in exactly the same manner as his non-disabled peers.
"At first I was pretty nervous. I didn't know quite what to expect," Evan says. "Now, I think that I like the customers the best. At Hilltop, I got to interact with my co-workers; here, it's more customer-focused. Customers will ask me where a particular bottle goes, or what happens to their bottles after they put them in the machine. I like to help them."
What's next for this over achiever? "I'd like to venture off into different departments," Evan says, of his goals at Wegmans — and he's not afraid to do some heavy lifting to get there.
"Later this month, I'm taking a class at BOCES in Mount Morris to get my forklift certification," he says. "That opens up a lot more possibilities."