JUNE 2022 - Jim Papania is the Director, Food & Nutrition Services at DORS Workforce & Technology Center’s (WTC) cafeteria, Pattycakes’ Food Systems. Pattycakes is a Maryland Business Enterprise for the Blind (MDBEP) business.
Jim recently invited DORS staff to help celebrate a milestone birthday: Jimmy, Pattycakes’ longtime Porter/Dishwasher, was about to turn 70.
He announced the celebration via email: “Jimmy has been the Porter/Dishwasher here at WTC for the past 21 years. He went through [WTC training] in 2000 and was hired by the then Food Services Manager to work in the Cafeteria in 2001.”
A celebration of Jimmy’s birthday was held at Pattycakes’ the following Friday.
Jimmy first connected with DORS in 1998. “I came here [to WTC] after meeting a counselor at a DORS office. At first, I learned word processing and had a job doing that for a while, but when that ended, I went back to my counselor, Mr. Swartzman. He suggested I try the janitorial training [now Environmental Services], so I completed that. But then I told Mr. Swartzman that I had some experience working in a kitchen, so he asked me about working in the cafeteria kitchen at WTC.
“When I first started [at the WTC cafeteria], it was the Morrison Cafeteria. We went through some changes; a few [food services management] companies and then Jim [Papania] came in 2007. So, I’ve been with Jim for 15 of my 20 years. We see people come and go, but I need some longevity.”
In addition to being the Porter/Dishwasher, Jimmy says he does pot washing and general housekeeping. “This suits me [better than working with the food] because I have some food allergies. [And] I get to really do what I want to do, whenever I can, and I have a chance to do other things.”
During the COVID-19 emergency, all DORS facilities were closed and most staff were teleworking. Since there were no consumers or staff at WTC, Pattycakes’ was closed and Jimmy could not come to work. “I stayed home, collected unemployment, but it wasn’t the same.”
Despite his recent milestone birthday, Jimmy was ready to get back to his job at Pattycakes’. “It was an adjustment to get back to work, but I’m 70 now; I guess a few more years won’t hurt. I’m not ready to give it up. I try to take it one day at a time. If I get tired, I rest. I do that when I need to.”
Jimmy’s advice for people with disabilities who are considering applying for DORS services: “The counselors are right there [for you] and they help you…you can bounce ideas off them and go to them when you need to. [DORS staff/services] get you geared up and point you in the right direction, point you to [employment]. If you are down and out, you can come to DORS and get moral support.”
When asked about working for so long for Jim Papania, Jimmy smiles, “He’s cool. He told me to say good things about him. But, really, he is good to work for.”
Jim Papania’s email explained that Jimmy went through many very difficult life experiences “[Jimmy] completely turned his life around and has become one of the most honest, gentle and upstanding men that I have ever met... We have been his family for all this time.”
DORS is glad that Jimmy has found long-term job success and that it has been as a part of the DORS family.