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Disability Action Center NW

Dedicated disabled worker sets example at Holbrook shop

By Ashlee Fairey
Posted Aug 12, 2010 @ 05:18 AM
Last update Aug 12, 2010 @ 07:17 AM

When Alan Gersony first began working at the Holbrook Community Package Store 16 years ago, it took him four hours to assemble individual cans into a six-pack of beer. Now a beloved fixture of the local liquor store, the 49-year-old Holbrook resident completes 10 six-packs in an hour. “I know the job like the back of my hand,” he said. His diligence and dependability is inspiring fellow workers and local business owners. Gersony was diagnosed as an infant with cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that inhibits muscle coordination and oftentimes cognition.

Though he is developmentally disabled, it does not prevent Gersony from being a highly valued employee.

Gersony began working in the 1980s with Work Inc., a local nonprofit organization that assists disabled individuals with job training and placement.

With the help of job coaches, Gersony learned to take public transportation and gained work experience assembling packages and refrigerator gaskets for local companies.

In 1994, Gersony was ready for independent employment. At the time, he would often come into Holbrook Community Package to redeem his empty cans.

“Alan said, ‘One day, I’m going to work for you,’” said store owner Rich Friedman. “He was a nice guy, and I like helping. I knew he would be an asset to us, and as it turns out, he has.”

It took some getting used to. After Gersony struggled to put together the six-packs on his first day, Friedman questioned his hiring decision.

“But I’ll never forget this: As Alan was leaving, he said, ‘I’ll do a better job next time.’” Friedman said. “He wasn’t giving up, so I wasn’t going to give up on him.”

Over the years, Gersony has not only become more expedient, he has continually taken on more responsibility. He is now in charge of stocking the beer coolers, taking inventory and cleaning the aisles, among other duties.

“The only thing I can’t do is run the register,” he said. “It’s just so complicated to give change.” After 16 years, Friedman and Gersony are close friends.

“He is one of our most valued employees,” Friedman said. “He’s always on time and never calls in sick.”

He walks or rides his three-wheeled bicycle to work four days a week.

After his mother died five years ago, Gersony moved in with a provider family that houses and watches out for him.

Gersony also volunteers as a janitor at the Winthrop Congregational Church in Holbrook one day a week.

“He has a determination to push himself further,” said Lisa Fitzgerald, Gersony’s job coach at Work Inc. “He doesn’t settle.”

Gersony’s work ethic has inspired local employers to hire other disabled workers.

Victor Cimino, owner of Quincy-based Insul-Pro, was so struck by Gersony’s efforts, according to Work Inc., he recently hired Bill Cushing, who hadn’t worked in six years, Fitzgerald said.

Gersony and Cushing began at Work Inc., which recently relocated from Quincy to Dorchester, around the same time and are close friends.

Asked how he felt when hearing of his friend’s hire, Gersony was near speechless with excitement.

“I felt proud,” he said with a big smile.