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Ronald Burglass’ Journey Back to Work

Ronald Burglass’ Journey Back to Work

Categories: Agency Excellence, Employment, Featured News, Self-Advocacy

May 2023 will mark Ronald “Ron” Burglass’ first work anniversary at BJ’s WholeSale Club in Valley Stream.

Ron Burglass at WorkAHRC Nassau’s Supported Employment Program (SEMP) has been instrumental in assisting Ron to secure this role.

The 57-year-old is an outgoing man, who enjoys being active and staying busy. He lives at AHRC’s Pearl St. Oceanside House and works in asset recovery. In this role, Ron is tasked with restocking eligible merchandise for customers. Asset recovery associates take the items customers don’t purchase at checkout and circle them back to their proper place — perishable items to the trash and nonperishable items back on shelves.

Ron began his career as a store associate in 1986, starting as a cart attendant at Waldbaum’s, now known as Stop & Shop. There, he garnered 30+ years of experience, working his way up from a cart attendant to taking roles indoors handling logistics making sure items are in stock and available for shoppers.

Ron worked regularly right up until 2020 when the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

His family became concerned with him working in what was deemed a high-risk environment and recommended he stay home. However, Ron wanted to continue working, saying he didn’t feel at risk. Due to his family’s concerns, he stopped work in February 2020 using his vacation time to continue receiving paychecks until his time ended in May.

This routine continued for the better part of two years. Ron was sustained financially by economic impact payments he received as part of the (CARES Act) and the American Rescue Plan. That, along with the housing and support he received from AHRC, helped keep him afloat until early 2022 when his funds bottomed out.

Conditions turned sour when his mother had to pitch in and started sending personal checks to support him. Ron felt uncomfortable losing the sense of independence he’d cultivated for decades.

“He’s used to working, without money, he started having behavior issues” added Yifan Ge, Pearl St. Oceanside House Manager. Ron would get upset from the simmering frustration of being dependent on his elderly mother.

At the time, he was regularly attending day services in Freeport five days a week. Periodically, Ron would stop by the SEMP office seeking employment opportunities.

“He would come by the office once a week, advocating for himself asking for any updates on job search, expressing how much he wanted to go back to work,” mentioned Michelle Fileccia, Supervisor of Supported Employment (SEMP) at AHRC Nassau.

Ron’s job search was particularly tricky because SEMP had to consider his family’s requests for him. Due to COVID concerns, they preferred that Ron take on roles in a warehouse environment, where he would be working independently, away from the public. Ge mentioned the request was tough to accommodate because those roles aren’t always available.

Through persistence and self-advocacy, Ron’s family became more lenient towards him exploring customer-facing positions. The SEMP office helped Ron apply for the job with BJ’s. They also helped him prepare for the interview. Ron showed his eagerness to work by letting his potential employer know that he was flexible and able to work every day if needed.

Ron landed the job and started at BJ’s in May 2022. As a person supported by AHRC SEMP, Ron had the assistance of a job coach when he started work. His coach stayed with him for a couple of weeks, helping with training and liaising with store leadership to make sure Ron was able to complete his tasks and was assigned an appropriate amount of work.

After the initial training period, he began working independently, with his job coach checking in periodically to make sure his days were going smoothly. His job coach ensures  he’s not having trouble at work and that his needs, if any, are being met by his employer.

Ron is more optimistic about the future now and keeps a busy schedule. Currently, he works three days a week for five hours each shift. So far, he is loving it. As an asset recovery associate, empties boxes, and restocks eligible items left after checkout. He works independently and occasionally; he’ll assist his coworkers with their tasks.

On his days off, Ron attends Day Services and likes shopping and attending events with friends. With his paycheck, Ron has money in the bank to buy his favorite things, like books, candy, and DVDs. After landing the role, Ge noticed there was a positive change in Ron’s demeanor.

“A lot of people [supported by AHRC] have no idea what money can do, but Ronald, he’s used to having money. He’s used to going to the bank and cashing his check. He knows how that feels,” added Ge.

“I feel good about my job, everything’s fine and a lot of people here are really nice. I’m doing really well here,” mentioned Ron. “It’s better for me here at BJ’s, much better.”