Introducing Hometown Hero, Pat Schutzenhofer
Patricia Schutzenhofer’s dedication to helping others realize their potential is something to be admired. Pat is a Supervisor of Talent Acquisition at Schnucks Market, Inc. at the Lackland Road location and has been working with MERS Goodwill’s Summer Work Experience Program (SWEP) since 2008.
SWEP is a pre-employment program developed to help young adults with developmental disabilities gain real world work experience and is funded by the St. Louis County Productive Living Board.
Pat acts as a liaison between the Schnucks store managers and the SWEP program coordinators. She works with youth with developmental disabilities to place them at Schnucks stores in the area. Pat has a keen sense for where each individual will shine and gain the best skills to later be hired on permanently with Schnucks or another company. Her commitment to the youth doesn’t go unnoticed.
“Pat has always welcomed the SWEP program and truly believes in its mission,” said Sarah Dotson, Coordinator for SWEP. “She understands the value that it brings to the community for these teenagers. They are able to develop the necessary skills to support themselves, allowing some to live independently. Without Pat and Schnucks, the SWEP program would look very different and we truly appreciate the work Pat does.”
Pat has worked for Schnucks for over 45 years. During her time as a cashier in 1993, Pat was asked by her manager if she would be willing to work with a new co-worker that had a developmental disability. Her manager felt she had the experience and pleasant personality to help the individual achieve.
She was tasked with helping the young man learn the duties of being a bagger. Pat built a strong bond with the man and absolutely loved her time training him. She felt she was really making a difference in this man’s life. Because of Pat’s support and ongoing guidance, this man was able to live a self-sufficient life.
“My job was to make sure that the young man was treated just like every other employee,” said Pat. “I had never worked with anyone who had special needs before and he was a blessing.”
This was the start of Pat’s enthusiasm to help those with disabilities. Ever since then, Pat has developed a passion to help those with special needs. She has been assigned to work with programs similar to SWEP and has received several awards for her contributions to the special needs community. Pat was a part of the Schnucks team that received the “Goldenberg Wall of Honor Award” from the Life Skills Foundation for Schnucks’ commitment to hiring people with disabilities.
Pat recently attended an awards program for the youth involved in SWEP where they received a certificate of completion. Many of the youth are hired on as permanent staff for Schnucks after completion of the program.
“Receiving a certificate at the end of the program is such a huge accomplishment for the youth,” said Pat. “It brought tears to my eyes to see them so excited and proud of themselves.”
Pat believes in SWEP and continues to work with organizations like MERS Goodwill because it provides the opportunity for individuals with disabilities to grow up to become independent, working members of society. The families of the youth with disabilities benefit, too, as they are able to leave the household and create lives of their own.
“Programs like SWEP help give individuals with disabilities that opportunity to break the barrier to gaining employment,” said Pat. “These types of programs equip the youth with life skills beyond just having a job.”