Finding Robert Trisha Linton’s: Story about Robert Cupp

By | General | No Comments

Robert has been living and working with Trisha and the staff of Hillcroft since 2005. The previous institution he had lived in for many years was closed by the state due to numerous questionable practices. Robert is without words, but has recently started to communicate and show desire to learn and interact with his surroundings and the people who are caring for him.

Robert sits in his chair, rocking back and forth. He has his right hand resting in the top of his shirt, fingertips pointing towards his heart. His fingertips on his other hand touch his face, starting at his forehead, then trace the lines of his face downward, stopping to retrace certain grooves and lines around his mouth.

I don’t know what Robert’s life was like in the institution he was in before I met him, and I’ll never really know, but I can piece together bits of it and glean certain parts. I imagine it as being lonely. I imagine Robert spending all of his time in his room with no one to bring him out and make him present. No one to let him know that it is safe outside of his room and that he can find security beyond its doorframe. I don’t think he ever understood that a community of people that he can trust exists until recently. I imagine his only spark of warmth was when his mom would visit him. He lights up when he sees his mom.

What I do know, for sure, is that at some point in his life Robert decided that he hates potatoes. It doesn’t matter how they are fixed, how they look, or how they smell, he will always pass on anything potato. I also know, for sure, that Robert loves cupcakes, popcorn, and The Three Stooges. The first time I heard Robert laugh was when we were watching that show. I had known him for years. Unlike the Stooges and their flailing arms, slugs in the shoulder, or knocks on the head, Robert’s laugh surprised us all. He was focused, he was laughing, and he was secure enough to show us. Turns out, he thinks I Love Lucy is just as enchanting.

The first time Robert ever signed the word “Yes,” I thought about screaming, or crying, or maybe even doing a little bit of both. His next word that he signed was “more.” Those little words showed me that he was with us, acknowledging himself, showing me that he had wants, needs, and desires. He wasn’t going to spend his life being a number assigned to him, hidden away in a room. He wasn’t just going to be a notion in the background or an afterthought. It became my mission to bring Robert out and to stretch his comfort zone a little each day. I don’t want him to be that silent, broken man who felt the need to guard his food from others and to avoid everyone. I want him to be the Robert that I find an aisle away in the grocery store, eating Nutty Bars out of the box. I want him to fold his laundry, know his routine, notice his surroundings, and not turn away from attention.

I always remind myself that our roles in life can be easily reversed. They can change in seconds. It’s not the question of “What if our roles were reversed?” that gets to me—it’s the thought that our roles can be reversed swiftly and without choosing.

Robert proves to me day after day that life is about the small things. He shows me a strength I will never know or pretend to understand. To be unafraid and know your place when the day ends, to lie still, to find peace in the company of people you trust—that is happiness.

I am thrilled that Robert is finding his.

Written by:
Sara Renee in brief: camera always in hand, daydreams of traveling with her gaggle of Weimaraners again, and will someday, make it back to Alaska. Until then, she enjoys digging in the dirt, wandering through the woods, and jotting instances down in one of her several notebooks.

Who is Rocky Balboa?: Robert “Robbie” Gerard’s Story

By | General | No Comments

The morning sun streams in through the Walgreens window over the bright, white snow and blue sky. It looks sunny and warm outside, like when I went to Florida, but I’m no fool. I know better.
Like clockwork, it’s Monday and I’m ready to begin my shift at Walgreens. I get right to work. The customers are shuffling in from the bitter cold “polar vortex” I keep hearing about, with snow on their shoes.

I follow them with my mop, so no one slips and falls on the trail of melted snow puddles from the door to the pharmacy. I try not to get too close, but sometimes customers turn around and wonder what I’m up to. When they do, I smile at them and they smile right back. I say, “Welcome to Walgreen’s. How are you today?”

Sometimes they answer and sometimes they don’t, but they always smile.

My manager Craig tells me that’s why I just earned my employee service award; he says I notice everything and I’m always looking for ways to help. Most of all, Craig tells me I make everyone smile—that I’m a great big warm hug on a cold day, like today. He says I bring magic to his store.

I always check in and ask Craig, “How are you, buddy?” He says, “I’m doing just fine.”
Craig says he appreciates it that I care how he’s doing.

I thought I was just doing my job.

The Walgreen’s aisles are towers of all sorts of things that I love and other things I don’t: candy, sweets, magazines, toys and all sorts of gadgets and gizmos that customers are all the time trying to find. My job is to keep them nice and neat. Most customers are good about putting things back where they belong, but a few others can be messy. I sometimes wonder to myself if they were born in a barn.

If a customer asks me about the candy we have, I can tell them anything they want to know, but I don’t know about all those medicines; I find Craig when customers ask me about them. I have no idea about make-up or nail polish stuff and feel a little bashful when I’m in that section. It’s not “my thing,” but the pictures of Carrie Underwood and all the other pretty ladies are nice to look at when I’m straightening up—so I don’t mind cleaning up that section very much, at all.

My favorite part of working at Walgreen’s is hearing the music that plays on the radio. I like AC/DC, but that doesn’t usually play on Walgreen’s radio station. Every once in a while I hear my music. Carrie Underwood comes on a lot.

Did I tell you that I like Carrie Underwood?

My shift is almost up and it went by so fast. I make my rounds one more time and am sure to tell everyone, “Goodbye! See you next Monday!”

Now it’s time to go.

I’m off to my second job at the Hillcroft workshop. I have lots of friends there. People tell me I am a rock star worker, all the time, especially Mrs. Brenda. Mrs. Brenda is my good friend, looks out for me, and is always saying really nice and kind of embarrassing things about me. She’s tells everyone how awesome my wavy, dark hair is, how sweet I am, and how hard I work. I don’t know why, but I get embarrassed easily when people say nice things about me. Mr. Todd, who I see a lot and always has my back at home, tells me I’m trouble. Maybe he should tell Mrs. Brenda that.

Just the other day, someone told me I looked like the actor Sly Stallone, who plays boxer Rocky Balboa from the Rocky movies.

I asked, “Who’s Rocky Balboa?” I don’t know who he is, but now I want to watch the “Rocky” movies.

I’m not Rocky Balboa—I’m me. But maybe I could be Robbie Balboa, just this once.

Written by:
Aimee Robertson-Fant is a mother of three, co-founder of Muncie Matters, and is a community organizer for the Muncie Action Plan. She has been a public educator for at-risk youth, a photojournalist, and was a storyteller and photographer for last year’s Facing Project in Muncie: Facing Autism.


By | General | No Comments

Hillcroft Industries, a division of Hillcroft Services, Inc., is celebrating its ISO 9001:2015 certificate of registration for its quality management system. A ribbon-cutting ceremony conducted by the Muncie Chamber of Commerce was held on Thursday, October 5th, 9:30 – 10:30 a.m., at th 501 W. Air Park Drive location.

Hillcroft Industries, formerly Cannon Industries, has performed parts assembly, packaging, kitting, collating, and sorting work for various industries in east central Indiana for over 60 years. Customers have included local businesses, OEMs, Tier 1 automotive suppliers, and international manufacturers and distributers from various industries.

“ISO 9001:2015 certification is a significant milestone for Hillcroft Industries and its employees. It demonstrates Hillcroft’s commitment to a quality management system that focuses on the process approach, continuous improvement, and a robust customer focus that delivers consistent, quality results,” according to Mike Salmon, Vice President of Business Development, who led the company and initiated its journey toward certification. “It’s been a long journey and a cultural shift for many within the company who were unaccustomed to standardized work practices and quality principles. The implementation of a solid quality management system has been transformative for the company, its employees, and the customers who have recognized the results of these efforts. The ISO 9001:2015 certification from SAI Global was ‘icing on the cake’ and affirms our quality management system and helps prepare us for continued, sustainable growth.”

ISO 9001:2015 is an international standard which specifies requirements for a quality management system that wishes to demonstrate the ability to consistently provide products and services that meet customer and applicable statutory and regulatory requirements and aims to enhance customer satisfaction.

Hillcroft Services, Inc. provides residential, employment and community support services to individuals with developmental disabilities. The mission of Hillcroft is to provide innovative services and supports for People with disabilities and their families, resulting in extraordinary differences in People’s lives. Hillcroft Services encompasses several divisions: ABA Clinic, Creativity Unlimited, Hillcroft Industries and Reliable Transport. It is also a provider of residential and therapy services.

For more information on Hillcroft Industries, contact Mike Salmon, VP Business Development, or Michael Whitlock, VP Business Operations, at 765-284-4166.

Bobby Tells the Story of His Smile: Bobby Taylor’s Story

By | General | No Comments

My Hillcroft workshop coaches brag about my smile. Say I’m famous for baseball caps and bling. Today, I’m wearing a silver chain with a “B” at the bottom. Another with an “A” for my girlfriend’s name.

Everywhere I go, I shake a buddy’s hand. I shoot hoops for Special Olympics. Swim and bowl for fun. I buy my own polo shirts. My own tickets. Ride the bus anywhere I need to go in Muncie.
The job coaches assign me contracts for gauging gold. The top pay. And Mr. Anderson at the Y snapped his fingers to hire me on the spot. I’ve cleaned there 14 years.

My type of cerebral palsy tightens muscles. I struggle to straighten my arms. Never learned to tie shoelaces. Rode my first bike when I was 17 after Riley doctors operated to reverse the tendons in my legs. All those trips with my mother to Indianapolis, singing with the King of Pop and the Godfather of Soul.

At Morrison Mock school, speech therapists cheered while I talked through the peanut butter on my tongue. My mother tugged at a towel I clenched in my mouth to strengthen my jaws. Nothing worked as we’d hoped. I don’t point to pictures of KISS in a book of favorite things or rely on a talking machine to speak my mind.

When asked about the wrestler I root for, I swipe my hand before my face. Then write “JO” on the tabletop for the wrestler who makes himself invisible. As a boy, I watched The A-Team on TV.


I wear ear studs like Mr. T. A high school wrestling championship ring my mother found. Michael Jordan chains. Dollar signs. And cause bracelets for Jesus Lives, Alter Ego Comics, and Breast Cancer Awareness. I decorate my room with Spiderman gadgets. Web-slinger reds and blues.

When my mother came home with the twins. I counted them to make sure Ball Memorial had sent both my brothers with her.

I’ve seen the ghost of Elvis in Memphis and our greatest presidents carved into a mountain side. Listen to the music of heroes. The faces of all of my watches are encircled with diamonds.

Written by:
Michael Brockley has been writing poems since he was a boy with a burr hair cut in Connersville, Indiana. He has written poems for three Facing Projects.

One of My Girls Kim Johnson’s: Story About Rachel Nye

By | General | No Comments

I’m the site manager for the house—three girls live there—including Rachel. I take care of the girls, grocery shop, do doctor’s appointments—stuff like that. I pretty much manage everything that goes on in the house.

I’ve been working with Rachel on and off for about seven years and started working with her full-time about three-and-a-half years ago. Rachel has mild retardation.

I don’t like to say that word though—I call them handicapable because my girls are capable of doing whatever they want to do. She also has anxiety disorder and OCD. With the OCD she repeats herself a whole lot—like calling my name. She will call it at the beginning of a sentence and in the middle of a sentence and then about five times at the end of a sentence.

I take it in stride—I’ve been with her so long and been working with her so long it’s kind of normal to me. Sometimes when we are together and the OCD kicks in, we have to stop and I tell her to take a deep breath and slow down. By me being with her so much I know when they are coming so that is when I will get in there and—if we are in a fun situation—I will be goofy so we laugh and get her mind off it. Or, if I see she is agitated, I pull her to the side and I talk her through it so she can calm down. I know exactly when she is going to have one of her serious ones—she gives you that look of death. She looks out of the side of her eyes like, “I am going to get you,” so that is when we go to the side and have to talk about it.

A typical day with Rachel is making sure her chores are done, and then basically asking her what she wants to do and whatever she wants to do, we do it.

When I come in for the day, Rachel is pretty much up already—she is our early bird—she gets up at 5 in the morning to get herself started. By the time I get there, she has had breakfast and is getting dressed. When I walk in the door, she is the first person I hear calling my name—two or three times. Then, she has to tell me what is on her agenda every day and she will tell me that agenda a couple times before we walk out the door!

Some of her favorite places to go are Hillcroft, Dollar Tree, McDonalds, Chase Bank — she loves Daniel who works at the Northwest Plaza branch—and the McGalliard library. At every place she knows everyone who works there and pretty much she walks in there and is like, “Hi guys!” And she hears, “Hi Rachel.”

Rachel has a brother, Pat, who is with Hillcroft too and we meet up with him at least once a week. They get to see each other more but they do a one-on-one at least once a week. We meet up at different areas around Muncie or he will come over for lunch or she will go there. We try to keep her busy, to keep her out of the house, because once she gets in the house she has a routine. Once she is there she wants to take a shower and put on her pajamas and she is done for the day. If Rachel had her way she would be in bed by 6 after dinner—so we try to keep her out as much as possible.

Rachel LOVES the color purple! Actually if you tell her two things: that you have cats—she is the ultimate cat woman—and that you love the color purple—you will be her all-time best friend. She wears purple almost every day—at least five out of seven days she will have on purple—a purple shirt, purple scarf, purple pants—purple everything!

I think Rachel gets a lot out of our relationship. She has more patience and is learning a lot of different things. We cook, we go places, we do things—she learns so much that at times she can tell me the rules before I can tell her the rules. An example would be that before we go into a store, the rule is that if the employees are busy we aren’t going to bother them—she can talk to them when she is in line. She’ll say, “Kim, I will not talk to her if she is busy—I will wait until I am in line.”

One time we had an agreement that we were going to switch roles and I would walk into the bank and yell hello to everyone in the bank. Well, when the time came and we got to the bank she looks at me and goes, “Now Kim, you aren’t going to go in there and yell are you?” I said, “Am I supposed to?” She said, “No, you will embarrass me if you do.” And we walked in and she was smooth and didn’t yell. She knows the rules but sometimes decides she doesn’t want to follow them!

I do have to take a time out now and then. It will get really frustrating and I will tell Rachel and the other girls I have to go to the bathroom and I just go in there and take a deep breath. It’s very rare because a lot of the times we are just goofy—we turn on the music and we are just dancing and singing and laughing and stuff like that. Sometimes I forget she is a client and we just do our thing. I love knowing I am helping her.

People ask me how long I will do this and I tell them I’m not going anywhere. If they put me out they better lock all the doors and windows because if they put me out the front door I am running to the back door. This is just something I like to do. I like to take care of people and help them.

Written by:
Chris Bavender is a Muncie native and Ball State University alumna. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a print and broadcast journalist, and is a freelance writer for several regional publications. She currently lives in Indianapolis where she is the marketing director for a law firm.

I am Ray Curtis: Ray Curtis’s Story

By | General | No Comments

I am Ray Curtis.

I am the friendliest guy you will ever meet. Not an enemy in the world. I can honestly say that I have never met a stranger and you will be my friend in no time.

The Colts lost to the Giants and their next game is against the Saints. The first time you meet me, you may mistake me for Tom Brokaw because I talk about the day’s current events or the latest sports news. But I am Ray Curtis.

Batman has his sidekick Robin, I have my friend Evelyn. Instead of fighting crime, Evelyn and I have gone to the local dollar store, grocery shopping, and to the bank. I used to go alone, but now I forget to come back. I am not Batman or Robin, but I am Ray Curtis.

Evelyn and I were the Dynamic Duo of Hillcroft. She is my oldest friend. We met when I was still able to live on my own. For 26 years we have gone everywhere together and she has seen me at my best and my worst. I often obsess over things. Sometimes when I’d get really worked up, I’d yell, “You’re giving me a headache!” But Evelyn was always there to calm me down. Sometimes I would call her some very unkind names, and afterwards I would feel sorry for doing it. After that I would go to my room and take a nap. Not a superhero, just Ray Curtis.

You might think that I am a seasoned world traveler heading into the great unknown. My many travels have taken me to places like Washington D.C. where I visited the White House, to the Mall of America, Chicago, Florida, and the Bahamas. But I am Ray Curtis and my best Friend is Evelyn Wyatt.

I am an expert on all things Beatles, wrestling, Roy Rogers, and John Wayne. I once had a collection of figurines so large I had to have my own man cave to put it in. When I get started collecting, I can’t stop. I just get more and more and more of the same thing until I have so much that I don’t know what to do with it all. I don’t know why I collect things, my need seems to take over and I can’t control it. Then a lot of my collection has to go away. There just isn’t enough room. Now I just have some figurines of The Beatles and wrestlers. My favorite, Hulk Hogan, is on my table. But I do have lots of pictures of Roy Rogers on my wall. But that’s the way I am, just me, Ray Curtis.

One time a head from one of the figurines fell off. I tried to put it back on with my stick deodorant. It was the best I could do. In another life I might have been Engineer Ray Curtis or Mechanic Ray Curtis. But no, I am just Ray Curtis.

I am not just about the Beatles and Hulk Hogan. I have a girlfriend. Her name is Jody. I started dating her right after I broke up with my other girlfriend. We have been going together for eight years. Our favorite date is to go out to eat and then watch a movie. I gave her an engagement ring and we are talking about marriage. She works next to me at my job at Hillcroft. I like that. Sometimes I go over to her house to visit. I do everything I can to treat her well. I am a true romantic and a real lady’s man. I am Ray Curtis.

I am a worker. My boss’s name is Curtis and he is a good boss, my favorite. I have had other jobs. My favorite was at the carwash. There I got to talk to a lot of different people as well as wash and polish their cars. At Psghetti To Go I washed dishes, helped cook, and even got to go on some deliveries. I am a pretty good worker, after all, I am Ray Curtis, but still, I can’t wait until Fridays.
My older brother Albert and I live in a supported living site. His diagnosis like mine is Mild Intellectual Disability. When we lived on our own, he had an apartment near me. Evelyn would visit us regularly and make sure we were all right and help us with our chores. My brother and I are very close. When he is not feeling well I can tell and I am very down. When I am sick, he does the same for me. I am Ray Curtis, and he is my brother, Albert Curtis.

I am Ray. I am 64-years-old. I also have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I get very upset occasionally and can be very persistent at times. I will always try to get away with far more than I should. When I do, you have to check with the staff to make sure it is okay. I also need to be reminded to clean up and wear clean clothes. I spend a lot of time in my room tinkering and watching television.

I want people to think of me as just a good guy. I am happy in my group home being with my brother. The best thing in the world is being around friends and my brother.

This is my life.

And I am just Ray Curtis, and we’re friends now.

Written by:
Tom Steiner lives in Muncie with his wife and 15-year-old daughter. When not working as a business advisor for the ISBDC or rehabbing his house in the Historic Emily Kimbrough Neighborhood, Tom is always looking for new and interesting challenges.

Favorite Things: Albert Curtis’s Story

By | General | No Comments

I have a few favorite things, but I really like working and cowboy movies. My most favorite job was working at the Country Buffet Restaurant. I was able to help prep food, wash dishes, and clean the front of the house. I worked there for about six years, with my friend Sarah, but then the restaurant closed and I lost my job.
I keep myself busy working at Hillcroft. My favorite job is being the material handler. That’s when I get to take out the garbage. I only work at Hillcroft for half a day, and when I get home I make myself lunch. My favorite lunch is a turkey sandwich.

Next year, I am going to retire from Hillcroft.

I like to go to the movies and I like to take my girlfriend to the movies when we go on dates. I like cowboy movies and I even have my own John Wayne movie. Right now, I want to take my girlfriend to see Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I have some other favorite things like bowling, and my brother. I was in the Special Olympics for bowling. I won lots and lots of medals and trophies, and I even won a gold medal. I don’t have all of my trophies anymore because they were so big they took up too much room so now I only have my most favorite trophies. I don’t bowl much anymore because I’m getting too old, but maybe I will try it again someday.

Ray Curtis is my brother. We were found by ourselves wandering the streets of New Castle when we were young. A nice lady took us in and we lived with her for a while and then we came to live at Hillcroft. I don’t know what happened to our birth father. Our birth mother passed away two years ago and I miss her. Ray and I got to visit her at the nursing home where she lived, talk with her on the phone, and spend the holidays with her.

Ray and I used to live in the same apartment complex, but we both had our own apartment. I didn’t like my apartment much because it was small and I had to climb the stairs to get to it, but I always kept it very, very clean. Now, Ray and live I together in the same supported living house, and we get to see each other all the time. I like living in the same house with Ray because he’s my younger brother and I get to help take care of him.

I have more favorite things, like country music, Christmas, and going on adventures. At Christmas I get to go shopping and buy presents for people, including my girlfriend and my brother Ray. I get to help decorate the tree, and I get lots of presents from other people. Christmas is my favorite holiday!

I have been on many, many adventures. I’ve traveled to Chicago, Washington D.C., Florida, the Bahamas, and I’ve even been to the Mall of America in Minnesota. My favorite place was Chicago because it was the closest, and I got to travel by car. My friend Evelyn Wyatt says I’m a backseat driver, but that’s okay because when I travel with Evelyn I get to go on adventures.

When I retire, I will go on more adventures. I may not go very far, but I will have fun. I will walk around the block and I will sit on the porch and watch the cars go by. Someday, I would like to go for a ride in a hot rod car. Hot rod cars are my favorite and I collect them. I would like to go very fast like my hot wheels. I would also like to take an adventure to Tennessee so I can see the mountains and the deer. Did you know that sometimes it gets cold in Tennessee? If I get to go to Tennessee, I will play country music on the radio and listen to my favorite singer, Elvis Presley.

And my last favorite things are growing a vegetable garden and cooking food. I like to help grow the vegetables in the garden, but this year someone mowed down the corn and the herbs. I wanted to eat the corn, but now it’s gone. Maybe next year I can grow more corn, because that’s my favorite. I also like to grow tomatoes because they are my favorite too.

Cooking is fun. I used to do it when I worked at the Country Buffet. Now I get to help make dinner by making salad and vegetables. I have to watch my diet and my weight, you know, because I have hypertension and a heart condition. I’m watching my weight very carefully and it’s not going anywhere.
Did I mention I have a few favorite things?

Written by:
Kristine Steiner lives in the historic district of Muncie, Indiana, with her husband, Tom, and their 16-year-old daughter, Emily. When she isn’t working as a Paralegal for the insurance industry, you’ll find Kristine tending to her vegetable and flower gardens, and working with Tom on restoring their 1880’s home.

October 5th: Ribbon Cutting and Tours

By | General | No Comments

Please join us for a Ribbon Cutting to celebrate Hillcroft Industries’ certification of its quality management system to ISO 9001:2015. Hillcroft offers a wide array of cost-saving, quality services that include automotive assembly, parts inspections, packaging, sorting, kitting, collating, labeling, warehousing and more.  They are located at 501 W. Air Park Drive, Muncie, Ind. The Ribbon Cutting will take place at 9:30 a.m. with tours to follow until 10:30 a.m.

Thirty More Jerrys: Jerry Lewis’s Story

By | General | No Comments

Three days a week for 2-3 hours a day, 15-year Olive Garden veteran Jerry Lewis busses tables and scrapes dishes, sporting a broad smile and a winning attitude that manager Tammi and co-worker Jenn would duplicate in every employee, if they could.


Jerry: I enjoy everybody who works here, and they enjoy me.
Jenn: Any time I ask him to do something, he’s always willing to help. Always there to help me whenever a server or prep person needs something.
Jerry: She’s been here a long time too—you’ve been here a long time too!

Jenn: Seems like yesterday!
Jerry: It’s gone really fast. Too fast.

Jerry: I clock in. Go back there and scrape for a while, then come out on the floor. I like to come out on the floor when it’s busier, sometimes, you know. I like out here better bussing tables, but I don’t mind scraping, you know.
Tammi: Because he’s asked me to do more bussing, I’ll switch it up. I’ll have a different busser come in and do some scraping so Jerry can be out bussing more. You have a little interaction with the team members when you’re scraping, but out here bussing, with guests, you’ll see him laughing and joking, grabbing dishes out of hands . . . I think it’s just more interactive for him.

Jerry: Every day that I come here be a good day to me! You know what I’m saying? When I’m here, it’s a good day.
Tammi: I’m proud of Jerry every time he comes in to work. He’s always—
Jerry: You too—you too, Tammi!
Tammi: —Really, to have an employee who you ask to do something and who says, “I’ll do it,” who says, “I’ll get it done,” and does it. Who always has a smile on his face, always has a fist pump . . . if only we had 30 more Jerrys!


Jerry: I would say I’m friendly. I like to meet people.
Tammi: Dedicated is the word I would use.
Jerry: Yeah.
Tammi: A hard worker. And like we said, he always has a smile on his face. We’ll bring on back six trays of dishes, or he’ll have a whole section to clean up, and he’s laughing; he just gets it done. I’ve never seen Jerry upset, frustrated, mad, any of those things. He’s just good.

Tammi: When I first got here, maybe my second month, I remember Jerry coming up to me first thing and saying, “I’ve been working hard to earn my Olive Garden jacket.” It’s a nice, lightweight jacket with the Olive Garden logo and an employee’s name embroidered on it. We actually have an employee of the month program for team members to earn the jacket. I said, “Ok, well, let me see how you work. Let me watch you, talk to other team members, see how you’re doing, and we’ll see how you can earn that jacket.” When I started talking to team members, they already knew what kind of dedicated employee he was. They were like, “Have you seen Jerry work?” It probably took me less than a week of watching him work to say, “Wow, why haven’t you had that jacket yet?” He can have a whole tray full of dishes, and he’ll have no problem with it at all—he’ll take them all and bring me even more. Jerry, you’re one of the people who definitely earned the jacket. I know he takes pride in it, and he does a phenomenal job.

Jerry: I appreciate that. Appreciate that jacket. Kinda hot to wear it now.
Jenn: It’ll be here before you know it.
Jerry: Yeah, summer goin’ by fast.

Jerry: I like to play basketball, go to the movies. I
do a lot of . . . a lot of stuff. Go to festivals, stuff like that. The fair. And, of course, checkin’ out the women. [Laughs] Everywhere I go.
Jenn: And he’s honest!
Jerry: I go to church, too. Called the Church of the Living God, right by Washington Carver School. The service starts at 2, get out at 3. Sometimes we have programs going on in the week. Kind of like bible study, you know? Something like that. Like a workshop . . . yeah. Sometimes, yeah. Great people. I get to know them and stuff—I start talking to them like I do.

I play basketball for the Special Olympics. This is my last year. I’m done now. I’ve played long enough. Told them I’d be the team manager. Still doing volleyball and softball though for the Special Olympics. I enjoy the people, and they enjoy being around me too, of course. They’re like, “Where Jerry at? He ain’t got here yet . . . there he is!”

Jerry: A bunch of . . . a bunch of them have come
and gone. Like Zach. He used to work here. He was a server—his name was Zach. He was a good friend of mine. And Josh, he’s worked . . . he works here now, Josh, one of the servers. He’s a good friend of mine. Jenn, she’s a good friend of mine!
Jenn: And Kevin. I think Kevin’s goal in life is to make you laugh.
Jerry: Yeah, Kevin, yeah. Coworkers talk to me. They joke around sometimes. They pick on me for my name. Jerry Lewis. [Chuckles] Tammi: I’ve never heard anything other than good things about Jerry here.
Jenn: And if someone did say something negative about him, the rest of the employees would be up there defending him. You don’t pick on Jerry around here. Tammi: Like I said, if I had 30 more Jerrys, it would probably make life a lot easier. To have employees who are always positive? The restaurant business can get pretty stressful. To be able to still keep a smile on your face and keep going? I wish I could be that way every day!
Jerry: Life’s too short for a sad face. You know what I’m saying? Pastor said that one Sunday, and I kept it in my mind.

When I Get My Balance Back: Phil Zearbaugh’s Story

By | General | No Comments

He used to hit me when I’d misbehave or have a seizure, right upside the head. When I was a teenager I told him that if he hit me again, I’d hit him right back so he’d know how it feels. My brother got between us and said to dad, “You hear him? He’ll hit you right back!” My dad never hit me again.

I’m about 70 years old now. I like to work. I like to go out.

I went to school until eighth grade. I lived with my mom and dad until my dad died on August 3rd in a car accident. I don’t remember how old I was, but he died. Then mom died, I don’t remember how old I was, but she died of a heart attack, right in front of me.

I like animals, especially horses. I used to take care of horses at the fair. One of the groomers was mean to the horses. He didn’t take care of them the way he should. I took care of his horses for him. He should have paid me, but he didn’t. The horses like me. When I meet them I put my hand out to touch their nose and pet all the way up the head, down the mane, over the back and down to the hooves so they get used to me touching them. So they know I won’t hurt them, and they don’t hurt me. I pet and brush them, clean out their stalls, and feed them. Sometimes I would exercise the horses, ride them. I slept on a cot in the barn sometimes, in a room by the horses, so I’d be there in the morning when they needed me.

I took care of six horses—Bob, he had one eye out, so I put a patch over his bad eye, and I liked Jay County Sue and Miss Night Tag, too. They were good horses. I was in the St. Patrick’s Day parade and Ball State homecoming parade with the horses. I drove the horse and buggy and everyone waved to me as I rode the buggy down the street.

I lived by myself for a while, after dad and mom died, but I didn’t know how to cook. I wasn’t eating anything good. I got down to 98 pounds and was taken to the hospital to recover. My stepbrother wanted to put me into a home, but instead I went to Hillcroft. They set me up in a group home, helped me get a job, and learn how to cook and balance my checkbook so I could take care of myself.

Whitney comes every payday to help me balance my checkbook, but I like to do it myself before she gets here. Then she looks at it and tells me I did a good job. I live in a house with roommates, and when it gets too loud I go to my room and close the door. I have a bed and chair, a T.V., and all of my trains in my room. My dad, uncle, and brother all worked on the railroad. We would ride the train all the way to California when my dad was alive. I like trains.

I’ve flown in a plane to Florida. I like to go places. When I get my balance back, I’ll go to work again. I like to be out. I like to do things. I don’t much care what, but I like animals.

J.K. comes from Hillcroft to take me out some days. We go to feed the ducks at the pond. We go out to eat. I don’t have any teeth left, but I still like to eat. I like to get coffee. I want to go to the dog show this weekend, see the dogs and pet them. I like animals. Once I feel better I’ll see if I can go groom the horses at the fair again. I have a pace maker now, and a cane. I have to go back to the heart doctor in three weeks. They said my heart was only working 30%, but I had surgery and should feel better soon.

I like to go out. I don’t much care where. I want to meet the mayor and go to see the police station. I’ve seen kids go in there. I think they’ll let me go. I’ve been to the Kentucky Derby. My stepbrother took me there. We watched the horses run. I went to Anderson to watch the horses run and won $1,800.

I watch Lawrence Welk every Sunday night, and the Gaithers. I like their singing. I go to church every Sunday at Gethsemane and my pastor says I know the words to all of the songs without reading them. He says I know them by heart, sing from my heart.

I’m a good dancer, to any kind of music, it doesn’t matter what kind, but a lot of my friends like Elvis. At Hillcroft they have a Thanksgiving dinner every year. They have Elvis come and sing. I go out on the dance floor, even if no one else is. The ladies like when I dance. Sometimes they dance in a circle around me. J.K. thinks this is funny. I like to dance. I like to go out, I don’t much care where.

When I get my balance back I’ll go see the horses again.

Written by:
Leah Chandler is an inspirational speaker, writer, and sometimes poet, as well as mom to four crazy kids, one codependent dog and a moderately overweight cat.