Overcoming Obstacles to Excellence
Enhancing the lives of those we serve through innovative partnerships.
Food is often so much more than just the nutrients needed for survival. In some cases, a meal is the highlight of someone’s day. And to others, helping in the kitchen provides a sense of self fulfillment and develops job skills. Recently, combining these two outcomes has created a unique new partnership for CSG.
Gallagher Services, a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, has employed 2 participants for over a decade as helpers in their kitchen. Rudy and Shawn had no formal kitchen training, but they were able to help prepare meals on a limited basis. The goal had always been to help them obtain marketable skills in the work force, but along with their dining program, it was falling short of expectations.
Catholic Charities, a parent organization to Gallagher Services, and CSG recognized the need to extend outside dining services to this population, with a twist. It was determined that this expanded partnership would not just focus on improving the food quality, health, and satisfaction of participants, but it would also incorporate CSG’s vocational program.
Last fall, CSG brought Kyle Luke on board to serve the dual purpose of both culinary coordinator and vocational instructor. While CSG’s Laura Schmitt worked to modify the vocational program to suite the learning needs of Shawn and Rudy, Kyle began creating positive change at Gallagher Services through plate presentation. With over half of their participants on textured diets, the new puree entrées shaped in molds to resemble solid foods promoted participant dignity and increased their appetites.
“The food quality and appeal is 100% improved. As a result, our participants are actually gaining healthy weight and finishing their entire meals”, says Brian Trees, Associate Administrator of Gallagher Services. A challenging feat given that statistically participants in these programs have difficulty maintaining weight.
Good food is sure to please any crowd, but perhaps it’s also a result of the service. In March of this year, CSG launched its vocational program with Shawn and Rudy as its first students. Working with Gallagher’s new job coach, Alicia, who spearheads the classroom learning component, Kyle then reinforces the learned material in the kitchen with the actual meal service. “The participants light up,” says Kyle about the meal delivery lead by Shawn and Rudy.
In just a month’s time, the students have had tremendous success. Both Rudy and Shawn have completed online training videos, book work, and class room sessions focused on kitchen safety. “Some days these guys come in and they are so excited to share about their homework that they forget to say hello in the morning!” shared Kyle. And it’s not just Kyle who sees their new enthusiasm
“Our team members have noticed increased confidence and professionalism in both of these individuals. They are already demonstrating improved skills and competencies, with CSG’s program helping them to retain kitchen skills for employment,” said Brian. Modifications made to the vocational program were the inclusion of additional repetition of tasks and memory tricks, like color coded trays indicating diet type for meal delivery. Through these methods, Rudy and Shawn have learned to better navigate through Gallagher Services building, a task that they previous had trouble with. “We have regular reviews of the material and they are really enjoying class time,” says Alicia.
Learning the bookwork with Alicia and the hands-on with Kyle is just the first step planned to transition Gallagher participants into productive members of the work force. Once they have completed all of the material and demonstrate an understanding of food and kitchen safety, these first 2 students will transfer to work in the larger kitchen of Catholic Charities to evaluate how they adapt to the environment change and test how well they can apply their knowledge in a new dining situation.
Shawn, an avid Orioles fan, has aspirations of working in dining services in a public setting. “I like to give out food. I want to get a job someday out of here – wish I could work at Camden Yards!” said Shawn. As these students advance, new day program participants will have the opportunity to learn as well, with the potential to also expand this training to other locations. Together, Gallagher and CSG expect to set industry expectations for vocational programs that serve developmentally disabled adults.
The Gallagher program is truly a testament to the partnership that the CSG team developed at Catholic Charities Villa Maria School and Residential Treatment Center, which allowed this expansion to grow. “[We are] very appreciative of how committed and responsive Bruce Reinke, Nick Bostic and the CSG team have been in providing meals that our children enjoy AND that meet the strict standards for nutritional value that we follow. It is a relationship-based approach that forges a strong sense of teamwork between CSG and Catholic Charities,” said Jon Hackbarth, Director of Centralized Services for Catholic Charities’ Family Services Division. It’s a relationship that will continue to overcome the obstacles to excellence to enhance lives of those CSG serves.