“Harry brought joy to work so that it didn’t feel like “work”. He generated enthusiasm for our mission and really cared to do right by our Variety kids. His language of love was gift giving, and he gave generously and thoughtfully of himself as well. We miss him tremendously and promise to honor his legacy ongoing! I feel a hole in my life from his absence, but am grateful for having the honor to work with him. I am a better person from knowing him.” – Dominique Bernardo, CEO of Variety
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Spotlight On: VarietyWorks Job Coach, Leon Jaskuta
Leon first became involved in Variety through his daughters, who had previously worked in Variety’s Extended School Year program. A retired police officer, Leon describes himself as someone who “loves to work” and sought a rewarding way to give back. This drive led him to begin working with Variety’s career development initiatives as a VarietyWorks Job Coach — first part-time and later full-time.
As a VarietyWorks Job Coach, Leon mentors students participating in VarietyWorks’ farm to table program, which is a step on their path to community employment and economic independence. Students in this program work in our greenhouse and garden to grow vegetables from seed to harvest. Vegetables are then sold with leftovers donated to feed the animals at the Philadelphia Zoo.
Leon wanted to be a job coach in order to give students the satisfaction of a job well done. He remarked that each day is a different day at Variety and that provides opportunities for clients to work toward their own personal career path.
Leon’s favorite part about working with Variety is the opportunity to see young people grow and learn a little bit more each day. When participants get to see the results of their hard work, such as when plants have fully grown, Leon says they gain both a sense of accomplishment and empowerment. This, in turn, helps build toward finding a job that they love and may not have chosen before.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Leon has described the VarietyWorks participants as “champs” for continuing to come in to the garden spaces, working hard and approaching every day with the same enthusiasm as they had before the pandemic. He says, “the challenge did not phase them” and believes that we can all learn a great deal from their can-do attitude.