Supported Employment Success Story

Nov 17, 2021

Supported Employment Success Story

Patrick always enjoyed cooking. His first job was working with a larger-than-life personality who showed him the ropes of the restaurant business. Patrick threw himself into the industry and, while he was still pretty young, met a great deal of success as a chef, kitchen manager, and later, restaurant owner. But, all that success took a toll. Drugs are a huge problem in the restaurant business and Patrick soon found they helped him stay active while slowly tearing away at his life and his mind.

By the time Patrick lost the restaurant, he had built from the ground up he had lost everything else that mattered to him as well. He had no job, his family had turned away from him, and he was broke. In addition, the drugs he had used for so many years had significantly affected his mental health to the point that he was constantly paranoid and angry. Luckily, Patrick connected with LifeWorks NW and got the support he needed to begin piecing his life back together.

“When I met Patrick he was determined to get back to work,” says Jason Pearl, Supported Employment specialist, treatment had helped him quit hard drugs and he was taking medications that helped him make sense of the world again. He wanted to go back to work in a restaurant. So, we started working on finding something that would work for him. The problem we ran into was that Patrick had so much experience, he intimidated many of the chefs and managers he interviewed with. The restaurant business also is an extremely competitive and, at times, cutthroat business where egos often go unchecked. Patrick quickly sensed that a return to this business might expose him to some of the demons he had worked so hard to defeat.

“We agreed to change goals. Patrick got his certification as a forklift driver and worked for a short time.”

He tried his hand at a variety of other kinds of jobs, but none were quite right for him. He had skills that were not being utilized and talents that were being wasted.

Then, COVID-19 began ravaging the world and quarantine shut nearly everything down for a time. When society finally began venturing out again we found that many workers, restaurant workers especially, were hesitant to return to their jobs for various reasons.

“This was the opportunity that Patrick needed,” says Jason ”A fun restaurant not far from Patrick’s home seemed like a good opportunity,” When Patrick and I walked in together the first time, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. He just needed a shot to show them what he could do. Soon, he got that shot.

“I spoke to the manager and he told me about the difficulty of finding, training, and keeping workers during the pandemic. They had been forced to do To-Go orders just to stay afloat while shutting down the dining room. When quarantine lifted they had the freedom to operate their business but nobody to work there. When Patrick showed the manager his résumé he said one thing to him. ‘Show me.’ It was the shot that Patrick needed. He was given a 2-hour “audition” for a role as a prep cook. Patrick did not disappoint. All the time away from an industrial kitchen didn’t tarnish his skills one bit. While the manager watched, Patrick performed small miracles with kitchen knives and completed in just a few hours what would have taken two people a full shift. He was immediately offered the job.”

According to Jason, Vocational Rehab had been very supportive. They helped Patrick get his forklift certification, and made sure he had warm clothing during his outdoor jobs. They helped him put gas in his car to get to work. They helped Patrick get dentures to help with his confidence.

“When the perfect restaurant job came along, they once again had Patrick’s back and made sure he had chef’s hats and appropriate attire to work in a kitchen,” says Jason. “They even helped him fix his mountain bike so he could get some exercise on the way to work. All the barriers to keeping the job that Patrick wanted had been removed. His future success was now up to him. Patrick did not disappoint.”

According to Jason, the owner, managers, and kitchen staff all realized how much talent and experience Patrick possessed. They gradually started asking him for more input and advice on how to run a successful restaurant.

“He made key changes that drastically cut down their food costs and dramatically reduced their food waste,” Jason says. “He streamlined their pantry and storage and added items to the menu that became popular overnight. Patrick shared with me how much the help of Lifeworks NW Supported Employment and Vocational Rehabilitation has meant to him during this journey.

“It took us almost three years to find just the right job but we did it,” said Patrick. “You never turned your back on me. You never gave up on me. Now I have a job that I love where I feel valued and respected.”