Now and then, a story comes along that makes me really glad to be a journalist. Of course, every story matters to me, and it’s always satisfying to work at a job in which you can learn something useful—and often enlightening—every day. But only a few stories over the years have truly moved me. This month’s feature article “Walter’s Kids” (page 72) is one of them. Due to a pressing personal issue on the day of the interview, I didn’t get to spend as much time chatting with Newark (Ohio) High School special education teacher Walter Gloshinski as I would have liked. I had to cut the interview a little short and rush off. I regret that, because there was so much more to talk about.
Walter’s calling—and make no mistake, it is a calling—is fraught with challenges. He teaches special needs students with cognitive delays and learning disabilities that will make it difficult for them to earn a living in adulthood. Our fast-paced, technology-obsessed society tends to write these folks off entirely, and many will remain dependent on their parents or other caretakers for their entire lives. But it’s incorrect to assume that people with special needs can’t contribute to society. Many of them can, and that’s what Walter has demonstrated with his unique operation, Smiling With Hope Bakery.
Walter’s students may not be able to run a POS system, but they can wash dishes, mop floors and scrub counters with the best of them. Some can serve customers, and others do everything from stretching and tossing dough to prepping the pie and firing it up in the oven. As Walter explains, they comprise an untapped labor force, capable of entry-level restaurant work and perfectly content to stay on the same job forever.
Walter has placed many of his students in local foodservice jobs, and other area companies and schools support his efforts by contracting with him to provide everything from healthy chocolate chip cookies to doggie biscuits. And as if Walter’s own dedication isn’t heartwarming enough, many others have come forward to support the cause. “I’ve learned that society wants to help, but they just don’t know how,” Walter told me. “I’ve been blessed to have so many people in the right positions in our corner, from superintendents, principals and boards of education to chambers of commerce. With pizza, we’ve crossed every line of politics, race, religion and socioeconomic status. Everybody likes pizza. It brings us all together. And my students love to serve pizza and make people happy.”
As Walter points out, there is no shortage of people with developmental disabilities, and many of them will make hardworking restaurant employees for life. So check out the article about Walter, and, if his story moves you like it moved me, contact your local or state agency that assists the disabled community and give these folks a try. Let us know how it goes!