Hometown Hero: Jerome Pollard

After having difficulties finding a job, Jerome Pollard is now known by his boss as “one of (her) best workers”. He was recently hired as a full-time dishwasher/busser for Sportsman’s Park Restaurant in St. Louis and, for Becky O’Brien, the restaurant’s General Manager, hiring Jerome was one of the best decisions she has ever made.

Jerome was connected with Becky through the MERS Goodwill Employment Services Program, following a referral from his Counselor with Missouri Vocational Rehabilitation, Brenne’ Ardrey. At the start of his services with Employment Specialist Tom Lemon, Jerome was working part-time at a fast food restaurant, but the inconsistent hours were not enough to support him. Jerome had difficulties with reading and writing connected with his disability, and needed support in finding a more permanent solution to be able to support himself.

“Jerome had great work history but he struggled with knowing how to promote himself to other employers,” said Tom. “But anyone who meets Jerome knows he is a genuinely good person who works hard and treats others with kindness and respect. He just needed a support system to show that he would be a tremendous asset to any company that was willing to give him a chance.”

Jerome’s scheduled hours at his part-time job fluctuated, with occasional last-minute hours added.

“Jerome could be working 30-40 hours one week and only 10 hours the following week, so we really had to improvise with employment options,” said Tom. “Jerome was interested to continue working in food service, so we decided to look for a position to complement Jerome’s other job.”

Tom helped Jerome create a resume, highlighting a variety of skills he had developed in his initial job and as well as qualities that would stand out to potential employers in the food service industry. He also worked with Jerome on his interview skills, where they would go over the typical questions that are asked and how to properly respond to them in kind.

One day while Tom was driving back to his office, he decided to stop by Sportsman’s Park Grill where he met Becky and told her about Goodwill’s Supported Employment Program. At the time, Becky wasn’t looking to fill any positions; it wasn’t until two weeks later that Tom received a call saying she was looking for a cook.

“We get a lot of walk-ins and people dropping off their resumes, but it’s always a challenge finding a candidate who really needs a job,” said Becky. “I’m always willing to give people a chance and Tom recommended I meet with his client, Jerome, who had experience as a cook.”

Jerome was hired on the spot and started out as a cook at Sportsman’s Park in June 2014. At first, there were some obstacles, but Tom and Becky worked to make adjustments to ensure Jerome would be successful. The group decided that Jerome would transfer to a dishwasher and busser position, where the reading requirements would be minimal. The move proved to be a perfect fit for Jerome.

Becky shares, “It’s been the most wonderful experience hiring Jerome. He’s just the perfect fit for us – he’s dedicated to his job, he knows what he’s supposed to do but still goes above and beyond. Most importantly, he loves the challenge and knows he’s needed here.”

Becky has been more than just a boss to Jerome; she’s been a mentor and is even helping him with learning how to write. Both Becky and Tom worked around Jerome’s other schedule in order to give him full-time hours at Sportsman’s Park. Today, Jerome works three double-shifts a week, giving him 40 hours at Sportsman’s while keeping up the hours at his original job. Becky makes sure he’s not overwhelmed and is constantly in awe at how he does it all.

“Coming from a boss’s point of view, Jerome really is one of my best workers,” adds Becky. “He’s the most thoughtful person and his attitude is contagious. His coworkers see the challenges he faces every day and it really motivates them to do a better job. This has just been a heartwarming experience for me, and it couldn’t have happened without the help and support from Tom and MERS Goodwill.”