Pathways mentors plan for success


Don Salter’s internship working at the Best Western Plus hotel in downtown Olean helped him discover what it’s like to work in an active downtown hotel. As part of The Rehabilitation Center’s Pathway to Employment program, he stepped into all aspects of the hospitality business to determine if that’s the kind of work he’d like to do on a permanent basis.

Pathway to Employment, funded by OPWDD, is one of the agency’s new person-centered vocational programs that offers individuals the opportunity to explore a variety of jobs, identify preferred careers, and develop a plan for obtaining employment in their community.  Individuals enrolled in the program participate in career exploration, discovery, and job readiness training to enhance their personal skills and create a path to success in the workplace.

Donald has worked for Subcon Industries, a safe and familiar work center, for the last 12 years.  Enrolling in the Pathway program offered him an opportunity to carefully consider a different career path and make an informed decision about his future.  Job coaching and staff support are provided through out the program.  This assured Don he had back up and would never be alone without Agency support.

Bill Dombrowski, General Manager of Best Western Plus, Olean, understood exactly how Don felt.  He began his own career at One-Stop employment before coming to Best Western almost five years ago. He knows first-hand how a teaspoon of opportunity can lead to a gallon of success. Consequently, he’s always on the look out to help someone else succeed. That was the case for Don. EMPCON_12315.0099

“Individuals in the program try out a variety of jobs for a few months to determine their own personal goals so they can pursue permanent employment,” said Deborah Poydock-Whipple, one of Don’s coaches and the agency Community Site Developer.  “When they complete the Pathway program they begin job development and look for permanent work.”

Don found a mentor in Bill, who saw his inherent capability through intangible character skills that are pivotal qualities for success in any business.  All Don needed was some encouragement to develop greater self-confidence.

Five years ago Bill, who was young, inexperienced, but highly motivated, began working in the maintenance department at Best Western. After two and a half years, he moved up to the front desk position.

“That’s when things started to get interesting,” he said, adding that only two years later, he found himself in the assistant general manager position.  A year later, he was the general manager. “In two years, we’ve taken this hotel from the bottom 40 percent to the top five,” Bill said, proving his employee-empowerment ethic is the gold standard for success.  He says “we” because he sees the rapid success of the Best Western Plus in Olean is the result of to the excitement, enthusiasm and will “to go out of their way in customer satisfaction” by the team.  Of course, he stirred up that excitement, modeled customer service, and empowered everyone who works there to be successful.

The single quality that makes Bill exceptional is his positive attitude that sees the potential in others and unleashes the power in that potential.

Bill saw that potential quietly shining behind Don’s bright smile.

“Bill looks for employees who have a good personality and are willing to go above and beyond,” Deborah said.

“Don’s got a deep heart, cares and empathizes with people, something you can’t teach.  They either have it or don’t,” Bill added.

Don completed work experiences in four different jobs at Best Western Plus, learning most aspects of the hotel’s business. These included housekeeping, breakfast bar, pool maintenance, and valet.

Bill’s own dedication to doing a good job, eyes wide open, with his willingness to go beyond to make customers feel comfortable and valued is such a high-energy priority for him that it’s contagious to his staff. It left a powerful impression on Don, who stepped into his internship at Best Western with only a fraction of the self-confidence with which he left a few months later.

The short story:

“It’s about building relationships and a team that will support you,” he said, adding, “When you’ve done this from the bottom up, you have a different perspective of running a hotel. You’re always asking, what’s one more thing you can do? What can we do to make this place even better? These are the ‘difference makers.’ ”

And, Don touched Bill’s life, and Bill made a big difference in Don’s life.

“Don was great.  We love him. He was friendly and found that niche with everybody,” Bill said, adding the team enjoyed working with Don in all areas of the hotel.  “They took a little extra time in their day to show him how to clean the lobby, work with the continental breakfast.”

The team found that by rotating him, they were able to give him a feel for all the jobs at the hotel, from housekeeping to cleaning the pool.

“We saw a big difference in Donald from the beginning to end,” Bill said.

The relationship has had a lasting effect on both who are friends on Facebook.

“It’s not just a business connection,” Bill said. “It’s personal, accepting him and pushing him to flower a bit, empowering him.”

And, again, Bill was successful.

Don has bigger dreams today that he had four months ago.  The positive experience of working with a new team in a challenging new line of work, showed him he could be that person who succeeds.  Today, he’s on his way.

Best Western Plus is one of several hotels consolidated in the Visions Hotels management company throughout New York State. Visions Hotels has placed a high value on the same qualities Bill espouses. One, among many, is Santa’s Vision, which is a community event, which offers community leaders, businesses, and local people a way to support the needs of children.  It sponsors a fun-filled day for children to have their picture taken with Santa, receive a gift and other meaningful activities.  More than 25,000 children benefit from Santa’s vision throughout New York State. Visions Hotels also sponsors Home for the Holidays, free temporary lodging for families who have a family member receiving medical care.  It also offers a free night stay if someone has lost their home to a fire.


Pathway to Employment

Pathway to Employment is a person-centered employment planning and support service that provides assistance for individuals to obtain, maintain or advance in competitive employment or self-employment.

The Pathway to Employment service will be available to individuals expressing an interest in competitive employment or self-employment including (but not limited to) individuals who receive Day Habilitation, Pre-Vocational and Supported Employment services, as well as students leaving high school.

This service offers an individualized planning process that helps individuals identify a career or vocational direction. Pathway to Employment also provides instruction and training in job readiness skills and develops a plan for achieving competitive, integrated employment at or above the New York State minimum wage.

Within 12 months the outcome of this service is documentation of the participant’s stated career objective; a detailed career plan used to guide individual employment supports; and preparation for supported employment services.

To be eligible for Pathway to Employment, an individual needs to be enrolled in the Home and Community Based Waiver (HCBS). To enroll, discuss Pathway to Employment with your Medicaid Services Coordinator (MSC) or contact your OPWDD Regional Office.