Ethan Reid is just another one of the guys at Blue Mountain Lumber Products.
Ethan moved to Pendleton in 2015 with his family. Originally from Klamath Falls, Ethan previously worked in a sheltered workshop, making wood pallets at far below minimum wage.
When he moved to Pendleton, Ethan was referred to Vocational Rehabilitation services. VR counselor Diane Ashley said Ethan was vocal about the type of work he wanted to do; lumber.
“He loved that kind of work and I really couldn’t get him to consider anything else,” she said.
Diane connected with Jeff Roach, plant manager at family owned-Blue Mountain Lumbar Products in Pendleton. Jeff said Blue Mountain did not have experience hiring people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and he was hesitant at first about bringing someone into a physically intense job.
“I wanted to make sure he would be safe,” he said. “And it’s the type of work that’s not for everyone. It doesn’t change-it’s consistent (building pallets). He’s not going to learn something new every day or even every week. But after I met Ethan, I could tell this wasn’t going to be an issue. He really wanted to be here.”
For Ethan, his main priority was a job that is physically demanding. He fidgets when he has to stay still for long. Ethan experiences an intellectual disability and prefers being outside and keeping active.
“I am not one for sitting,” he said. “I tried to get in shape to get ready for this job by running up and down the hill we live on.”
Other than the physical nature of the job, Jeff said his other goal was for Ethan to become part of the team. He hired Ethan in April 2016 at 28 hours per week.
“My biggest goal for Ethan was for him to be like everyone else here,” Jeff said. “These guys work hard and they like to joke around and give each other a hard time.”
Ethan is part of a team that makes wood pallets. Tom Sloan, the pallet line supervisory, said they tried Ethan out in different areas of the lumberyard, but the pallet line crew was the best fit.
“He is just one of the guys here,” Tom said. “He takes a good ribbing out there from the guys, and he dishes it right back out.”
Ed Cortez, director of local employment provider Trendsitions, which provides Ethan’s job coaching services, said Ethan loves his job and his team.
“He just adores his job,” Ed said. “He has worked to become a part of this team.”
One of the aspects of fulfilling the job duties is that Ethan needed to work on his productivity. On his first day, he produced seven pallets in one day. Each full-time worker is expected to make about 75 pallets per day to keep up with demand. Ethan works part-time at 28 hours and now is making 40 pallets per day.
“I set a goal each morning for him when he came in, and increased it by one every day.” Tom said. “He brings a work ethic that is hard to find out there. He wants to produce good pallets and wants to make sure he is making something we can use.”
Ethan said he was exhausted early one, but liked the challenge.
“You know, they want the pallets done fast and they want it done right,” Ethan said. “It’s on the go here and that’s what I like.”
Ethan works 5:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. four days per week and makes $10 per hour.
Jeff said Ethan blends in with the team at Blue Mountain and has made friends.
“He is another one of the guys other there working and getting the job done,” he said. “He is no different than anyone else. He is one of the guys.”
Diane said for VR, it is important to find an employee with the right skills, and find a job that fits the person. Ethan is an example of how a good job match can make all the difference for someone who experiences a disability.
“I think the job is a big part of who he is, he really identifies with working here,” Ethan’s supervisory Tom said. “He’s one of the most dependable workers we’ve got here.”
Diane Ashley was the VR counselor and job developer for Ethan. Jessica Horton with Eastern Oregon Support Services Brokerage is his personal agent. His job coach is Trevor Deplantis with Trendsitions. Jennifer Bonnell from Work Incentives Network did benefits counseling.
Thank you all for your continued involvement, support, and advocacy for services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Oregon. If you have comments or other questions, please email them to [email protected].
A slideshow of Ethan at work can be viewed at: https://flic.kr/s/aHskQLFawW