Facing a New Landscape
~Lindsey finds her next step
Already at 8 a.m. on a busy Friday morning, the desert sun is intense on what will most likely be a 107 degree day at Spencer Park near downtown Tucson. Lindsey Tafoya reaches under a well-manicured Yucca with her garbage picker tool to grasp a piece of litter before quickly depositing it in the trash bag she holds in her other hand. Even in the heat, Lindsey is careful to wear her face mask, gloves, and a bright orange safety vest, strictly following all Beacon Group safety precautions. Nearby, her job coach Michelle Rich ensures Lindsey and her group works safely, including taking frequent water breaks and maintaining social distancing as much as possible.
As a part of one of the many Group Supported Employment (GSE) Landscaping crews at Beacon, Lindsey helps to maintain local parks for the City of Tucson. The biggest benefit to this work for Lindsey is being outdoors as she explains, “I like working outside better. I don’t like staying in one spot. I like doing a lot of stuff.”
Like many workers during these challenging economic times, Lindsey has had to shift gears quickly. She originally worked with another smaller Tucson non-profit that offered a range of services for people with developmental disabilities, including workplace skills development. Through that organization, Lindsey had been part of a team that cleaned Sun Tran buses. As a result of the pandemic, this non-profit shifted away from this Group Supported Employment, and Lindsey was referred to Beacon Group. Soon after, Lindsey started with Beacon program manager Audrey Bauman, who compliments, “Lindsey came to Beacon with a positive attitude and a high motivation to work.”
As Beacon Group was still in the process of assuming the Sun Tran contract, Audrey suggested that in the meantime Lindsey try out landscaping with a Beacon Group crew. Lindsey fell in love with the job, and she has been at her position since early June. Audrey explains, “Since joining the Beacon community, she has continued to show how exceptional her skills are.”
Being outside and moving from task to task are not the only benefits for Lindsey, she also enjoys working with her job coach Michelle. Along with other members of their landscaping team, the two often complete tasks side by side. Lindsey may collect or sweep litter while Michelle uses the leaf blower to clear sidewalks as well as pausing to provide on the job coaching support when needed. As Lindsey is quick to point out about her work, “I focus on my job and stuff to do. My disabilities don’t bother me. I kind of think first in my head how to do something at my job and then I get it done. I want to do it by myself. Sometimes, I help her (Michelle) and sometimes she helps me out.”
In Lindsey’s short time already on the landscaping team, she has picked up job tasks quickly and is also quick to assist other workers on the team if needed. Her job coach Michelle praises, “She picks up the job quick. She’s shown once and knows how to do something. She takes initiative and has been helping out other coworkers.”
In the past few months, the whole crew has adapted quickly to the new normal of wearing masks, keeping proper social distancing, and although wearing gloves most of the time, washing hands more frequently as well. Michelle sees these measures as a further way to make sure the people with disabilities she supports are safe during this time.
Lindsey credits having learned about landscaping at home while helping her father complete yard work. Until she came to Beacon Group, she might not have considered that for work, but now, she enthusiastically adds, “I want to stay here. I want to learn more stuff. I want to know how to do everything.” It’s a reminder that in times of adversity the willingness to learn and change are part of adapting and finding the next step in your path.