When I asked Chris Lanz if he’d like to be featured in the newsletter, he jumped up and down and clapped with a grin beaming on his face.
It’s that enthusiasm and energy that carries over to his work at Lighthouse in the Vocational Skills Training Program. When Chris starts his day, he darts inside the door, speed walks down the long warehouse path, greets his friends and supervisors and then promptly gets to work.
Whether it’s collating a fire safety kit, finishing a math kit, or sorting hangers, Chris works at a focused and fast pace regardless of the job. His finished products are consistently accurate and neat.
When asked for his favorite thing about Lighthouse, Chris answered: “Work.” His favorite job is Alert All fire safety kits.
While passionate about work, Chris also has a fun side. His supervisor, Erika Rosario, describes his personality: “Very playful–between breaks, he shows off his Diet Coke. Joyful, not negative. Always smiling–very welcoming and well-mannered.” As someone who loves pranks, Chris is also known to sneak up behind someone, tap their shoulder and then hide with an impish grin on his face.
His program specialist, Jen Swanson, speaks about his caring side:
“He shows his compassionate side when he lets people know he’s thinking about them or simply asks if they are okay.”
Since October, Chris increased his days at Lighthouse from two days a week to five days a week. Earlier this year, he started Small Group Employment (SGE) and since then, Chris is dramatically more social and talkative. Erika reflects on the growth she saw in Chris: “He gained more confidence. You can see it. Before he was more shy. After going out (in SGE), his personality came out.”
Jen speaks about his growth: “He used to come to work and go directly to his workstation and begin his day. Now he goes to the lunchroom, chats with his friends and stops and says hi to the supervisors.”
In SGE, Chris goes to businesses such as Levi’s Building Materials where he lines up screws to prep for painting and Lancaster Archery where he builds cardboard boxes for shipping supplies. SGE coach, Amanda Hershey, describes Chris: “Enthusiastic, engaging and always willing to give his best. When he struggled, he kept trying. He is always willing to talk and chat and always there with a smile.”
Chris’s mother, Kay Lanz, reflects on his experience of going out to businesses, “Going out to him is a privilege.” She describes Chris’s experience at Lighthouse, “He loves it,” she says emphatically. He comes home happy but tired.
Chris’s newfound zest from work carries over to his home life. “The difference is unbelievable,” says Kay. He starts the day by making his bed and finishing his chores and waking up early enough to wake up mom. Before, he started the day much later.
When not at work, Chris enjoys watching movies or YouTube videos of people with disabilities. He also enjoys shredding paper. Some of his favorite things include eating grilled hamburgers and listening to gospel music from the Gaither Family.
One thing that’s quite evident is Chris’s love for his family. When Chris’s youngest niece was born, he was bubbling over with joy and told everyone he met. He even brought a photo printout of his baby niece to work. Chris, who is the fifth of nine children, loves being an uncle. “He likes to babysit the younger ones and walk around with them. They love him as well,” says Kay. Chris also enjoys walking their English Golden Retriever; they have two dogs and two horses.
Kay remarks over the change in Chris since going to Lighthouse:
“Lighthouse is a miracle–the change–the happiness.”