Samuel Finds His Niche in the Kitchen at Columbia Basin Care Facility

Columbia Basin Care Facility in The Dalles, a nonprofit long-term care and rehabilitation facility, continues its successful partnership with the local Youth Transition Program (YTP) and hires Samuel as a kitchen assistant.

YTP prepares youth with disabilities for employment or career-related postsecondary education or training through the provision of a comprehensive array of pre-employment transition activities and supports. This practice is a collaborative effort among Oregon Vocational Rehabilitation, Oregon Department of Education, the University of Oregon and local school districts statewide in Oregon.

Samuel, 21, has flourished since participating in the YTP. “Sam’s journey to employment has been awesome to be a part of, says Yvonne Wheeler, the resident Youth Transition Specialist for North Wasco County School District No. 21 who serves 25 youth each year. “We explored his interests and then connected those interests to specific volunteer work experiences,” she says, “ultimately Sam began to discover a passion for kitchen work while volunteering as an assistant in The Dalles Meals on Wheels program.”

Founded in 1969, Meals on Wheels program aims to enrich the lives of seniors by providing nutritious food in a social environment. At The Dalles location, meals are served to seniors over the age of 60 in the form of home deliveries and congregate meals. “Sam was great about showing up even in the deep snow. He basically chipped in and did everything. He put things on trays, worked in the serving line and did dishes”, says Pam Farley, the head cook at The Dalles Meals on Wheels. She adds, “He talked to everybody.”

Upon completing his volunteer position at The Dalles Meals on Wheels in February 2017, Samuel applied for an internship at Columbia Basin Care to gain even more experience in their kitchen. After four months of phenomenal hands-on training, Samuel was offered a paid position as a kitchen assistant for 1 1⁄2 hours a day, Monday through Friday, at Columbia Basin Care.

“I always knew someday I’d find a job – that’s what kept me going”, says Samuel, smiling from ear to ear. “I always think positive things, not negative.”

Joe Fischer, the Food Service Director at Columbia Basin Care, sees Samuel as a positive addition to his team. “Sam doesn’t really have a bad day. He always comes to work in a good mood. I wish I could get more employees that have the same work ethic as Sam”, Joe adds, “He’s something that’s not very prevalent in today's workforce.”

In the kitchen, Sam prepares the residents' trays with silverware, napkins, and condiments. He sometimes washes dishes too. "Joe will usually just let me know what I need to do while I’m working”, he says confidently.

Since beginning his employment at Columbia Basin Care in July 2017, Samuel has shown himself to be keenly interested in not only performing his current duties well but in broadening his culinary skills too. And that has not gone unnoticed. In fact, Fischer has plans to encourage Samuel’s interest. “Sam mentioned a while ago that he likes soup – that’s something we could expand on since Monday’s are soup days”, says Fischer. Samuel’s smile grows increasing wide with this comment. It’s evident that there’s ambition in this young man.

Wheeler is thrilled to see Samuel achieve success while finding his niche in the kitchen at Columbia Basin Care. “It’s so rewarding to assist a YTP youth in realizing what type of employment they are genuinely enthusiastic about, and then, with hard work, determination and guidance, help them seek out a business that mirrors that enthusiasm. It’s a win-win situation that unequivocally makes our community a stronger and brighter place for all - one life - one business - at a time.”