Tony Blasingame is a pickle packer extraordinaire.
“I wish I had 10 Tonys,” said Jim Albrinck, manager of the Kaiser Pickles packing house in Cincinnati, where Tony has worked for 17 years. “He’s always on time and works hard. All you have to do is show him something once and he picks up on it quickly.”
Tony is part of a crew that packs jars of pickles, peppers, sauerkraut and relish. He is recognized not only for his hard work, but also for his amiable personality.
Tony, 55, has been deaf since he was age 3. He does not speak, but has developed a unique system of sign language that enables him to communicate with his co-workers. “Believe me when I tell you that Tony is always in the middle of it,” Jim said. “He gives as good as he gets.”
Mark Brislin is a job coach at Easter Seals who works with Tony. “I don’t have to do much job coaching,” Mark said. “I check in and make sure everything is going well with Tony, but he doesn’t need a lot of hand-holding. I’m not sure you could find a better example of how community employment positively impacts a person’s life. It’s one of the best examples I’ve ever seen of how community employment works.”
Tony takes the bus from his group home to Kaiser four days a week, where he works 10-hour shifts. The job, its regular paycheck and healthcare benefits have given Tony a degree of independence he would not have otherwise enjoyed.
Jim said Tony is keenly aware of the money he makes. “When he sees a raise in his paycheck, he understands that,” Jim said.
He was nominated for a 2012 Ohio Public Images Award for Personal Achievement.
Tony’s story was featured in a brochure for the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council.