Pete Crowell, 56, worked in sheltered workshops his entire adult life until January 2016, when he was hired at Grumpy’s Repair in Baker City.
Pete experiences traumatic brain injury from a car accident and has little short-term memory. Pete had been working in the sheltered workshop of provider Step Forward, which is transforming to provide community-based employment services. Step Forward now offers community-based employment services such as Discovery, job development and job coaching, as well as day support activities and residential services.
Pamela Roan, director of employment at Step Forward, said Pete went through Discovery and through that process, they found out he had a passion for cars.
Because Baker City is a small town and Pamela has deep roots in the community, she found out from Janie Brosemahaffey of the Youth Transition Program that J.R. Streifel and Dana Streifel, owners of Grumpy’s Repair, needed help in their garage. The business had never employed a person with an intellectual or developmental disability.
“J.R. was initially a bit hesitant, had a lot of questions,” Pamela said. “I brought Pete to meet him, and they just hit it off right away.”
J.R. said Pete has been an asset to the busy garage, which repairs vehicles throughout the region.
“The days that Pete is here, the mood is positive and the day just seems to go better,” J.R. said.
J.R.’s wife and Grumpy’s Repair owner Dana added: “We just love him. He is a mood booster.”
Pete’s duties include cleaning and sweeping the garage, and keeping the garage and workbench organized by arranging parts and equipment. He also helps with the recycling.
“He has helped bring up the appearance of the entire store,” J.R. said. “Before Pete, the mechanics had to try to clean when they had a chance, which isn’t often.”
Pete said he loves his job and looks forward to work days. He likes constant activity. When he isn’t working, Pete also participates in day support activities through Step Forward.
“I keep busy,” Pete said. “Everybody stays busy here.”
Pete’s job coach Jack Woodruff helps keep Pete on track by working through his task list. Pete’s memory loss makes it difficult for him to remember what duties he is expected to do.
“Some of the parts and certain machinery need extra care, so I make sure he is OK around those,” Jack said. “And some of the recycling needs extra attention due to chemical contents and you need to make sure it goes in the right place.”
Jack retired from his full-time job as a safety inspector and was referred to Pamela by Lisa Weichbrodt, Pete’s service coordinator. When Pamela was looking for a job coach for Pete, she reached out to Jack, who was looking for part-time work.
“It’s perfect and they get along so well,” she said. “Because of Jack’s professional background as an inspector, he really gets the importance of the regulations at an auto repair shop.”
Pete, always grinning as he works diligently at the auto shop, said he likes the owners and his coworkers at Grumpy’s. He also likes meeting the customers that come into the shop regularly.
“I like meeting new people,” he said, nodding. “I see people every day. As long as I have things to do, that’s what I like.”
Dana said that for a small business like Grumpy’s, having loyal, dependable workers like Pete is priceless.
“It’s a joy to us to know he wants to be here and how hard he works,” she said. “I wish we had more employees like him.”
Wendy Wall was the VR counselor for Pete. Lisa Weichbrodt is his service coordinator with New Directions Northwest. Pamela Roan was Pete’s job developer from Step Forward and Jack Woodruff is his job coach.
View a slideshow of Pete at work.