March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Tim Hyatt is one of the more of 180,000 people in Michigan who have a developmental disability. Tim works at Peckham’s Environmental Services line of business, a division in which almost 34% of the workforce has a developmental disability.
Tim had a number of jobs prior to joining Peckham. He worked as an auto mechanic, in construction doing siding, and as a farm worker. However, when his disability, which makes learning to read a struggle, came to the attention of his employers, he would often be dismissed from the job. In addition, he said he had attitude problems and lacked guidance on how to be successful at work. These factors, that some others carry out intuitively, were difficult for him to grasp.
In 1989, when his brother suggested he give Peckham a try, Tim thought he would stay for just a few months. But his life changed when an IT worker at Peckham showed him a computer program he could use to learn to read on his own. Though working with tutors had frustrated him in the past, using a computer allowed him to go at his own pace and didn’t make him feel intimidated. Eventually Tim learned to read, and this has been one of the proudest accomplishments of his life. With this big impediment and source of stress out of the way, Tim’s other abilities began to shine.
One of his biggest strengths lies in identifying the specific learning needs of others, whether it is a person with disabilities or without, and tailoring the training to them. His supervisors at Peckham have enabled him to capitalize on that skill and he is now a lead worker and trainer for Environmental Services.
Tim takes immense pride in his work. He thinks of the clients he serves when he is cleaning and often incentivizes others to do a better job. He has been selected as Worker of the Year in the past and was part of the team that cleaned the Michigan Capitol building during the COVID pandemic. Governor Whitmer praised Peckham’s environmental services crew’s efforts to keep government employees safe by effectively sanitizing and disinfecting their workplaces. Tim currently works cleaning Okemos Public School district facilities, one of the best paying jobs in environmental services.
Tim is grateful to have a job that allows him to support himself and his wife. If it wasn’t for Peckham, he says, he would not be where he is at. The private sector was less lenient and less supportive as he struggled throughout the years. He needed not only to learn how to read but also more nuanced guidance, such as learning how to get along with others, and how to meet work expectations in terms of punctuality and performance, for instance. He credits Peckham with never giving up on him despite his developmental disability, his struggle with depression, and his most recent medical issues.
He summed up his experience by stating something that is almost organically embedded into the culture of the organization: “People give up, but Peckham doesn’t give up on people.”