CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Students with special needs who volunteer in Chambersburg Hospital’s Food & Nutrition Department are serving up hard work with a generous side of enthusiasm as they learn real-world skills to help them secure employment in the future.
“I really like it,” 17-year-old Claire Garrigan said of the work she and classmates perform in the hospital five mornings a week. “Everyone’s nice. And, it’s fun to do.”
Each school year, between four and six Chambersburg Area Senior High School students perform a variety of tasks: They help inventory snack items and stock vending machines; put deliveries away; break down and take out cardboard and garbage; and put clean dishes away.
Director of Food & Nutrition Emilie Hansbrough said students bring a lightheartedness to the department as they learn and grow their skills.
“They bring a little bit of levity to the day – they contribute very much to our staff’s morale.”
While some might consider the tasks performed to be menial, the impact students make is significant and their absence is felt by department employees during summer break, according to Hansbrough.
“When they’re not here, we know it. They’re part of the team,” she noted.
The program has provided students with special needs real-world work experience for about a decade in various hospital departments. The Food & Nutrition Department has hosted students in the program for the last four years.
“It really builds their confidence throughout the course of the year. And, year after year, they just continue to learn new things and gain confidence in the skills,” Hansbrough explained
Teacher’s Assistant Gabrielle Newman agreed.
“The kids learn a lot from this program. They learn job skills, they learn to be prepared for work, to go to work every day, to come to school dressed and ready to go to work,” she said. “There’s things they learn here that they can’t learn at school.”
Newman said one of the most rewarding parts of the program is watching students settle into their roles and later mentor younger peers.
“You see them excel at (their work) and do well, and then, when the younger kids come in, the older kids teach the younger kids what to do. I think I like that the best.”
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, two walk-in care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.