Disabled essential workers honored for help during pandemic

Schoharie County

SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Three Capital Region essential workers are being recognized for really stepping up during the height of the pandemic.

Ray Trendell enjoys going to work. “It’s a nice atmosphere. Nice people,” he says.

For about a year now he’s been with Toe Path Industries in Schoharie. Under Lexington-Shoharie ARC, the organization hires people with disabilities to make things like reflective vehicle graphics for the New York State Police and floor cleaning pads for state agencies and outside companies.

But, back in March when COVID-19 began to spread, New York State and the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities introduced guidelines which placed many jobs like Ray’s on “pause.”

“They rely on the paychecks that they receive to pay for cars, rent,” said David DiNicola of Toe Path Industries.

Initially, they went from a 25-person workforce to just six or seven employees, with supervisors stepping in to keep the production line moving.

And when they realized they could not fulfill their workload with so few employees, Toe Path reached out to their workers with disabilities asking if they might consider returning to work. Trendell, Chris Stephens, and Josh Jackson all stepped right up.

“We would find Ray out in the parking lot before we got here waiting to come in. Josh, as soon as we assigned something to him, it would seem he would be coming back to us and saying what do you want for me to do for you next,” said DiNicola.

Josh told NEWS10 that he needed the income, but helping out was also important. “Good for me to help people out.”

“Important to keep making money to pay the bills, I would be just sitting around,” said Ray.

Chris used what he learned at Toe Path to landed a new job at another manufacturing facility.

Because they helped keep essential offices going during the pandemic, all three men are being recognized by the New York State Industries for the Disabled with the distinguished Joslin Outstanding Performer award.

“It was important for individuals with disabilities to be recognized during the pandemic because for the first time they were viewed as essential workers and that they could continue their lives like they were before the pandemic happened,” said Megan Tatro of NYSID.


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