WESTMINSTER — If you reach for a napkin at the Westminster Inn, or a towel at the East End Athletic Club, you will likely be unfurling something Juanita A. Haines' carefully folded.
Haines, 26, this month celebrates her second anniversary in a housekeeping job at the inn. She landed the job with the help of Carroll Haven, an agency that coaches developmentally disabled adults to get paying jobs at local businesses.
She doesn't talk much to new acquaintances, but Haines smiles andsays she likes her job. As she gives a quick tour of the inn, it's hard to keep up with her spirited pace up and down the stairs and hallways.
Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Haines does laundry, ironing and vacuuming. As she demonstrates to a visitor how she folds towels, she makes sure the EEAC logo shows on top, and the dining room linen is folded softly so that there are no sharp creases,just the way the inn likes them.
Between duties, Haines stops occasionally to pet Marcus, the owner's cat, or give a hug to a co-worker. At 11:30 a.m., she punches out for a half-hour lunch with co-workers.
Born with Down's syndrome, Haines can nonetheless handle a variety of tasks and has learned new words, social skills and gained confidence, her co-workers and supervisor say.
Kimberly Hutchison, supported employment coordinator at Carroll Haven, said those are the benefits disabled people get while working in productive jobs.
"They get a paying job, they get to be regarded as working, contributing citizens, and they get to go out and do things that are worthwhile, instead of sitting in a workshop learning practice skills," Hutchison said.
"They make new friends and they develop interests in the community. They're more confident and their work, social and language skills increase," she said.
The employer also benefits, Hutchison said. Carroll Haven provides a job coach to train the disabled worker and check in now and then. Also, the disabled employee can be a loyal and committed worker in an entry level job that otherwise would have a high turnover rate, Hutchison said.
David Horner, general manager of the Westminster Inn, praised the attitude of Haines and another housekeeping employee who is a client of Target Inc., another agency that coaches disabled people for employment.
"They're probably more dependable than your average employee," Horner said of Carroll Haven and Target clients the inn hires. "They rarely miss a day or come late. It just works out great for us."
Haines is the youngest of seven children and lives with her parents, Marion and Mabel Haines, in Sykesville. Mabel Haines said her daughter has always enjoyed helpingaround the house, especially folding clothes. When she was a child, she would go to the laundry hamper and fold all the clothes she couldget her hands on.
"She likes to do it," Mabel Haines said. "She loves to work. That's all I hear."
It doesn't surprise her that herdaughter is highly regarded at the inn, she said, because of her cheerful, cooperative attitude.
"Not just because she's my child, butI think everybody likes her," she said.
Mabel Haines is 72 and her husband is 80, so both are grateful their daughter can work and contribute some money to her living expenses.
The $70 or so a week that Haines clears now goes partly for household expenses, clothes and into a savings account.
"This way she can have her own money," Mabel Haines said.
Carroll Haven provides a van to take Haines to work, for $2 a trip. The job coaches are paid through a combination of federal and state grants and private donations, Hutchison said.
Fay"Connie" Hutsell is the executive housekeeper and Haines' direct supervisor. When Hutsell came to the inn in July, Haines already had been working there and was a little afraid of her new boss.
Hutsell had never worked with disabled people, but said it wasn't hard for herto supervise Haines once she gained her trust.
"It was just getting her confidence at first because she didn't know me," Hutsell said.The rare occasions when she had trouble communicating with Haines, coaches from Carroll Haven came to help, she said.
A job coach alsohad constructed a book for Haines to use, explaining her tasks, Hutsell said. But since last summer, Haines hasn't needed to use it.
"She just goes hopping along," Hutsell said.
Hutsell and Karen Stemple, another housekeeping employee, said it took them a few months tounderstand Haines' speech and to get her to talk at all.
"It usedto drive me crazy when we first started, because she used to point to things like a 3-year-old," Stemple said. "Now she says anything, and I can understand her."
Stemple said Haines also has learned to share with co-workers, instead of just accepting things from them.
Haines adores the bay fries Stemple sometimes orders for lunch, but would never offer anything in exchange for them until a few months ago, when she learned sharing also means giving now and then, Stemple said.
Hutsell said Haines has been especially inspired lately, with all the attention about her second anniversary, and seems more energetic and aware every day.
"We feel like being around us instead of always being around people like her with problems; she's really learning a lot and doing a lot better this way," Hutsell said.