On the Job with Community Employment


Keenan Toole

This week’s post is authored by contributor Clayton Cone.

For Keenan Toole, tool crib operator was a job he couldn’t pass up: it had good pay, good benefits and, as he would come to appreciate, good hours, at 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. He took the job, his first, and has worked at it since the fall of 2012.

Toole’s employment consultant, Lorie Polk, knew he liked working with tools, so when an advertisement for a shop position was posted on Craigslist, Polk asked Purakal, a Eugene-area manufacturer, for an interview. Purakal designs, constructs and repairs cylinders, some so big they operate the draw on a drawbridge. A tool crib operator tracks tools, sharpens drill bits and uses complex measuring devices, such as calipers.

Michael Bentley, Production Manager at Purakal, said that Polk was “instrumental” in the hiring process. She worked side-by-side with Toole 8 hours a day, 5 days a week and over the course of 4 weeks, a trial work-period that the Pearl Buck Center used for training. During that time, Bentley liked Toole’s work, so Purakal offered him the job.

Polk said Purakal employees taught her about the machines, tools and devices, and then she instructed Toole. After taking lots of notes, she made step-by-step written instructions based on what she was taught and what further instruction she was able to find online. She made 11 lists altogether, including a shop schedule. Lists covered how to sharpen a drill bit, how to dress a grinding stone and how to read calipers, among others.

Bentley said Polk also modeled a level of patience in working with Toole that Bentley and others at Purakal emulated.

Polk’s supervisor, Assistant Director of Adult Services Holly Powell said, “(Polk) is good at coming in and observing what can be done to make a person successful by adding a list or changing a routine.” She also said Polk is effective in both helping people get jobs and helping people keep them. Moreover, Polk, who has worked as an employment consultant with the Pearl Buck Center since 2008, can enlighten an employer as to how accommodations could enable a person with a disability to be hired on, Powell said.

Powell said Polk’s lists for Purakal were “simple and brilliant,” and they were necessary, as there was no manual to refer to.

Polk checked in with Bentley at the 6-month mark to see if any more training was needed and again at 1 year, but none was, Bentley said. Toole was working independently.

By April of 2014, Toole has had two pay raises—to $10.50 an hour, he said. Although he sharpened bits for nearly 1-1/2 years, he now disassembles cylinders, which sometimes weigh more than a car; and he cleans bathrooms, sweeps the warehouse floor and occasionally does yard work, for variety. Toole said he likes heavy-duty air tools, and he gets to use a torque gun in taking the cylinders apart. He likes his work.

Toole is finding his niche.

“He has been earning his keep, that’s for sure—and he’s pretty well liked,” said Bentley. “He’s a very productive guy.”

Toole has a future with Purakal.

“Our company has been very busy,” Bentley said. “We had a busy 2013, and we’re sure to have a busy 2014; and he is going to be a part of it.”

Purakal has been pleased with the Pearl Buck Center’s efforts.

“The whole thing went wonderfully,” Bentley said. “(The Pearl Buck Center) was able to come in and do the training, and we got a great guy out of it.”