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Sylvia Donaldson Retiring from Clarion Vocational Services after Thirty Years

Friday, February 28, 2020 @ 12:02 AM

Posted by Ron Wilshire

Sylvia CookiesCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – When Sylvia Donaldson, of Fryburg, retires Friday as Program Coordinator at Clarion Vocational Services, Inc. after 30 years, she’s going to miss the people she has worked with and learned from over the years.

(PICTURED ABOVE: Kerry Himes, Sylvia Donaldson, and Kathy Glosser congratulate Sylvia’s retirement from CVS and her cookies.)

“I’ve learned so much from them over the years, and they’ve taught me things,” said Donaldson. “They’re smart, and you get to see a different side of your consumers.”

Clarion Vocational Services (CVS) is a private, nonprofit, community based vocational rehabilitation and training program, according to the official organization description. Services are provided to individuals with developmental disabilities and psychiatric disabilities to maximize their vocational development and increase their employment possibilities.

(This CVS is not to be confused with the drug store that provides reams of cash register receipts.)

Donaldson is quick to add that her employees/consumers are not disabled and look at them as “differently-abled.”

“They teach you how to be kinder, how to be more patient and more understanding. Most people don’t have the privilege of working with them, and I generally love them.”

Job duties have grown over the years, and Sylvia said she does a little of everything.

“In addition to supervising my employees, I keep track of all inventory and order supplies, attend to all of their needs, I do billing twice a month, I do payroll every two weeks so that all of the individuals get paid. I even tear sweepers apart and put them back together when necessary or clean toilets. I do a little bit of everything.”

Silvia is also known for cooking and, along with the CVS Executive Director Kathy Glosser, bakes over 4,000 Christmas cookies over the years that are purchased by the public.

CVS Operations include County Cuisine, a small group employment work site for CVS.  Various items are on sale at the group’s lunch counter in the Clarion County Human Services building on Seventh Avenue and the Primary Health building at Trinity Point. County Cuisine also caters.

Kathy Glosser, Sylvia Donaldson, Kerry Himes, and Presley, the unofficial CVS therapy dog.

Kathy Glosser, Sylvia Donaldson, Kerry Himes, and Presley, the unofficial CVS therapy dog.

Grimefighters is a janitorial service that offers training and employment for individuals.

Sylvia worked at many jobs before joining CVS in 1990, from cleaning rooms and the laundry at a nursing home, waitressing, cooking and more, but it wasn’t until she completed the New Choices program taught by Shelly Takei that the path opened for her job of the last 30 years.

“Shelly received a call from Grimefighters that they needed someone, and she gave them my name. I wasn’t there very long until I was transferred to a position in the kitchen as a trainer and then went to the program coordinator. My youngest child was five years old when I started here, and she is returning here to the retirement celebration Friday with my two grandchildren.”

Sylvia joined CVS shortly after Glosser was named executive director, and they have worked together to expand its services.

“When I started here, we were located upstairs in one little room, and we had this little tiny janitorial closet. I had a little counter area that I wrote under a big twist. I rolled my cookies and mixed everything right there in that one little area. Now I’ve got three ovens, and sometimes that’s not enough.”

The evolution of County Cuisine started very small, with a toaster.

“We started one day when I found the toaster in the closet,” said Kathy. “We thought we could toast bagels for breakfast and sell them to the people working at the old hospital where our office was located. We started doing that, and we had bagel sandwiches before they were famous. Lunch was next, and when we started, there only five items on the lunch slips. It was terrific and grew by leaps and bounds over the years.

“Then we started selling food at the Clarion County Courthouse a couple of days a week. That is how we started, and at Christmastime, we now do over 4,000 cookies.”

Will Sylvia still play a part in the cookies each year?

“I’ll do it if they need me,” continued Sylvia. “I told them I’d be available if they needed me, but I feel pretty confident that the rest of the staff can carry it on. If I had my doubts, I wouldn’t retire.

“There’s going to be a big transition for a while, and there’s going to be a big hole, but Kerry Himes, a five-year employee, will be taking over as program coordinator.”

Himes has worked closely with Sylvia during the five years, and she is the senior person in the kitchen.

“She was the one that I would’ve picked to take my place,” said Sylvia.

An excellent job

“It’s been an excellent job and is the best job I ever had. I would do it all over again if it weren’t for my age, 67.

“I’m sure they can handle it, but it is emotional to leave this job. We are family, and we talk to each other on the phone on weekends and stuff. We even say I love you before we hang up. You have to be a family if you’re going to work with our consumers.”

Silvia recommends this type of work for other people.

“You can’t come in here and think you’re going to change who they are. They’re going to change who you are in a good way, and I find I’m not the person that started here, and I’m very grateful for that. They have brought me more than I did for them. It was a rewarding job.”

Plans including include traveling with her husband Hurman and visiting their many grandchildren and a trip to Texas.

To nobody’s surprise, she also wants to continue helping people and has some specific volunteer work in mind.

“I want to volunteer in a hospital nursery and rock babies born with opioid addiction. It’s just my passion, and I don’t know how to describe it, but that’s what I would like to do eventually.

“When my daughter had her baby at Penn Highlands in DuBois, there were three babies born addicted to opioids, and there’s a need, so I would just like to hold them and rock them and try to serve them as best as I can.”

Odds are they will be in safe hands.

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